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Tuesday May 29, 2012 Edition
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Service Learning Brings Together Passion and Power of the Class of 2012

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Tuesday May 29, 2012

By Cookie Steponaitis

    Back in 2007, the faculty at VUHS saw a golden opportunity and they jumped on it. During specified testing days in October and May when ½ of the school population was engaged in the important task of taking standardized tests, ½ of the school was available to participate in community based learning projects. So, a tradition was born.

    This year, the Class of 2012 undertook a special and remarkable project of spending not just a few hours, but a couple of days at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, a safe and loving place in Vermont on the shores of Mallets Bay where for 24 years kids who have cancer can play, swim, share and heal. While the thought of almost 100 teenagers with power equipment descending would have sent organizations running in trepidation, Camp Ta-Kum-Ta embraced the help and created a list spanning three pages of tasks needing assistance before the camp opens for the season. Organized into groups, the seniors tackled tasks including moving and raking stone, moving water lines, mulching, trimming back forest trails, organizing book libraries, building fire pits, roto tilling, weed whacking, and several large painting jobs involving decks and indoor rooms. While some seniors camped out over night, many made the trip daily and were on site in the early morning hours only to leave when last light had faded. “It was almost as if we were encompassed in a magical bubble,” shared faculty advisor Lee Shorey. “There were no cliques, no divisions, and the class worked as one to reach a goal. The smiles on their faces and the atmosphere were one of commitment and caring. It was a memorable experience not only for the adults there, but the class as well.”

    Still other seniors continued the three year process called Back to Their Roots and spent the days at Ferrisburgh Central School working with students on a host of projects including reading, crafts and sharing experiences about making career choices and plans for their future. The freshman class took advantage of the time and completed CPR and first Aide training for the whole grade as well as visiting colleges including UVM, CCV, and VTC at their Williston Campus. The sophomores participated in a series of testing and then went to the Vergennes Opera House for a community meeting and held elections for the fall. The seventh grade, after testing went to Job Corp and took tours of the trades offered there, building connections and breaking down stereotypes. “It was really special,” shared several seniors. “We are leaving this place soon and another bond we will all share was our work at Ta-Kum-Ta.”

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