Austin students learn value of volunteering

Published 9:39 am Friday, December 10, 2010

By Trey Mewes, staff writer

AUSTIN — When ninth-graders Gabe Gerstner and Ajuda Nywesh went bell-ringing at Wal-Mart for the Salvation Army of Austin, they learned a valuable lesson.

“It felt great helping people out,” Nywesh said.

Email newsletter signup

The money they earned volunteering for the Salvation Army went to a good cause, and both Gerstner and Nywesh now have experiences to write about for a large-scale project put on by two teachers in the ninth-grade Language Arts department at Austin High School.

The volunteering unit, assigned by Emily Hovland and Erin Enger, is designed to get kids volunteering and then writing a paper about their experiences. About 230 ninth-graders have or will be volunteering for two hours in some manner in the community. This could mean volunteering with a charitable organization in the community, or it could mean helping out a neighbor or their families for free.

“This gives them a few more options, they’re able to decide more when and where they want to (volunteer),” Enger said. “They’re able to go outside of the school day and do something.”

This is the first time Hovland and Enger have tried to incorporate a volunteer experience into the classroom, although the ninth-graders usually have a service learning day in the spring every year. Enger and Hovland helped students set up volunteer opportunities with a few organizations, such as bell-ringing for the Salvation Army. Ninth-graders also listened to presentations by the United Way and the Salvation Army this week, and will listen to a presentation of students in volunteer groups at school on Friday.