When Comstock Park High School senior Justin Terveen helped deliver Christmas gifts to a local family in need last year, he saw the children were wrapped in blankets to keep warm because of insufficient heating. “It was a huge eye-opener to see what they don’t have,” he said.
Now he and fellow members of the Comstock Park High School Student Volunteer Board are sending out a challenge to their peers. “Our goal is to have each and every one of you volunteer twice this semester,” said senior Noah Kibbe, board president, as he stood in front of new Comstock Park students during a welcome luncheon.
The student-led volunteer group recently launched the V2 campaign, emphasizing the twice-a semester goal. “What we have learned from past years is that the earlier students engage in community service, the more likely they are to continue service beyond high school, and the more likely they are to be more engaged in school in general,” said BettyBeth Johns, program adviser.
Students pitch in regularly for various causes, including Kids Food Basket, The 3 Mile Project, Maranatha Day Camp, John Ball Zoo, Ronald McDonald House, Relay for Life events, and the Comstock Park and Alpine Township branches of the Kent District Library.
On a recent Saturday, volunteers participated at two events: the annual Out of the Darkness Walk at Millennium Park to raise awareness of depression and suicide and the Million Meal March for Feeding America on the White Pine Trail in Plainfield Township.
“What motivates me is helping out and knowing you’ve influenced someone in a positive way,” said Noah, whose project for the year is spreading awareness about suicide prevention.
A Growing Legacy
The student volunteer program at Comstock Park High School has evolved from students pitching in at athletic events to serving at more than 30 area nonprofit organizations. In 2014 the program will celebrate its 25th year. Johns took over the reigns of the growing program nine years ago from the group’s founder, Gary Holland. “It’s just grown and grown and grown,” Johns said.
More than 300 high school volunteers have donated a cumulative of more than 20,000 hours to community service in the past four years, Johns said. There is no graduation requirement for volunteering, though students said it’s helpful for college applications. “We have launched a number of capable, caring adults into the philanthropy field, and empower annually 10 student leaders who plan, create and implement multiple service projects,” Johns said.
Volunteering has become part of the fabric of the high school, said Principal Steve Gough. “I think we’ve developed a spirit of giving at our school,” he said.
Students gather paper from every high school classroom twice a week for the PaperGator recycling program, which provides the group’s financial support.