Austin High starts new volunteer program

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Austin High School students will have more opportunities than tests and assignments to showcase their abilities starting this year.

District officials, including AHS Principal Brad Bergstrom and a committee of eight members, will employ a new volunteer system in which students receive recognition each year for giving back to the community. The program is called the Scarlet Cord, which stems from ideas already in use in Iowa schools. The Austin Public School Board approved the program Monday night at its meeting, so freshmen through seniors can earn extra accolades when they graduate. The students must offer 40 volunteer hours per year and 160 hours by the time they graduate; they can’t be compensated, and they can’t offer their time for music or sports.

Bergstrom, who was pushing for the program, said it’s an opportunity for students who don’t get good grades or don’t letter in extra-curricular activities.

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“We’re very excited about the opportunity for our kids,” he said.

Furthermore, Bergstrom and the board noted the importance of students meeting more of the community’s citizens and making a difference.

“At the end of the day, if it changes just one student … I think we’ve got a win for the students and Austin High School,” Bergstrom said.

Seniors through sophomores who can’t complete the full 160 hours will also be fostered into the program. If the Scarlet Cord is received well, there could also be an opportunity for school credits in the future, district officials said.