Volunteers earn their letters

VOLUNTEERS — Volunteer letter winners at Fairmont Area Schools. Front row: Madi Hagen, Kylee Green, Lauren Scott. Back row: Eric Head, Izzy Munsch, Kadien Boerner, Aaron Hendricks.

FAIRMONT — Fairmont High School implemented a volunteer letter for the 2016-2017 school year and saw seven students earn the award.

Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to apply and can earn a letter each year. Each student must complete 100 hours of unpaid, volunteer work beginning the summer before ninth grade. The school asks that 50 hours be completed through one agency to ensure complete understanding and commitment of the student.

“I was already volunteering anyway, so I thought I might as well log my hours,” said Kadien Boerner, a freshmen letter winner.

Other volunteers echoed this, saying they were already volunteering on a regular basis, so logging hours completed the process.

Students can volunteer at schools, churches, hospitals, parks, nursing homes, non-profits, etc. Volunteers can count up to eight hours per day spent doing service during mission trips, camp counseling or other volunteer trips. If students are in a club or sport, hours spent in that activity won’t count; however, hours spent planning a service project for that activity will.

Kylee Green and Izzy Munsch, both ninth-graders, did most of their volunteering through Girl Scouts, while Lauren Scott, a 10th-grader, spent most of her time at various nursing homes.

“It was nice when people at the nursing home stopped to say thank you. They don’t get many visitors so it was nice to know I was appreciated,” Scott said.

In addition to the 100 hours of service, students need to hand in a letter of recommendation from one of the agencies or individuals they helped, as well as a reflection project to highlight what they learned while volunteering. Students also need to have a supervisor or parent keep a log of their hours, but can track their own using the Varsity Letter Record of Volunteer Service.

“It’s cool to see how much of an impact we had,” reported Eric Head, a 10th-grader whose favorite moment volunteering was when he played piano for the children’s choir.

Mat Mahoney, activities director at the high school, said he is proud of these students for stepping up, and hopes they are the spark plug for kicking off this new program.

“A lot of these students had been volunteering before but it’s nice to be able to recognize them now. They’re really good kids,” he said.

The idea for starting a volunteer letter came when administrators attended a conference in Minnetonka and heard how successful the volunteer letter was there. The idea was run by the Fairmont school board and enthusiastically agreed upon.

All seven students who participated and received a letter plan to do it again next school year. Many plan to start volunteering right away this summer and hope that other students try it out, too.

“There are fun things out there and that makes it easier than you think,” Head said.