Want to graduate? Serve the community

Published 7:07 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Students at Pacelli High School are putting their faith into action outside of the classroom.

This year, the Catholic school launched a community service graduation requirement. The program is called Service in The Name of Christ.

Each year, students in grades 9-12 will be required to log 20 hours of volunteer work, explained Jeff Austin, religion teacher and campus ministry director.

In this inaugural year, students are encouraged but not mandated to put in 20 hours of service.

One senior, Stephanie Kasel, is already about halfway there.

“I’ve been volunteering with the Red Cross,” she said. “I worked during its’ tour of homes, and I’ve been traveling to schools to talk about safety.”

She plans to complete at least 10 more hours with the Mower County Chapter of the American Red Cross before graduating this spring.

Austin said students are encouraged to complete their hours within one organization.

“We think it’s important for them to be directly serving a community that has a need,” Austin said.

St. Mark’s, The Red Cross and the Salvation Army have all been working with Pacelli to involve students in their volunteer outreach programs.

Students have also been able to put in hours at their school this year at the booster club’s annual spaghetti dinner and during the Christmas tree pick-up.

“The goal is to get students to see that our faith as Christians goes beyond the walls of the school,” Austin said.

“It is about helping and serving and thinking of their faith as something to be put into action.”

Students are required to journal about their service experiences, and at the end of each school year they will write papers, serving as their religion course’s final.

“Overall, the response has been very good,” Austin said.

Kasel, who has done volunteer work in the past through her church and school, said the hours have not been difficult to fit into her senior schedule.

“I guess you can always find time to fit in service,” she said. “I’ve been meeting lots of people and it’s very rewarding.”