Since 2011, sophomores have spent an April day doing service and delivering back to the community. This year that day is April 5.
In 2010, the first year experiential learning was launched at the high school through the Chelsea Center.
“We were piloting a few things for the Chelsea Center to get experiential learning up and going. One of the things we did was a class called Service Learning Sampler, and kids who sign up for that got to go to one or two places that needed help every day for a week,” Experiential Learning Center director Julie Burchett said.
Two of the students, Katie Loher and Natalia Torres, who took the class came up with the idea of Sophomore Service Day for their capstone project.
“They had such a good time and saw and learned so much about St. Louis and the needs we have in St. Louis and the different organizations that are trying to help people, and they loved the fact that even a few hours in one day could help, and they really felt like they made a difference,” Burchett said.
After the students approached Burchett about their idea, they got approval from principal Dr. Jon Clark.
Students could only choose from about 15 organizations at the first Sophomore Service Day, but this year the number of opportunities is up to 31.
“We try to take what students are interested and find more places like that,” Burchett said. The two most popular categories are working with children and working with animals.
Other options include going to historic homes, thrift stores, food pantries and senior citizen homes.
Sophomore Mireille Bradford, who plans to go to Webster Child Care Center to work with children, said she was excited about the experience and how it’d help her in the future.
“I feel that spending a whole day with them [the children] is just a really good experience to have,” Bradford said.
If students want to stay at the high school, they have the option of working with teachers like Debbie Genovese, Diane Stromberg and Jeanette Hencken.
According to Burchett, Genovese works with many animal rescue organizations, and she and her students spend the day making peanut butter dog biscuits and fleece blankets.
Students with Stromberg spend the morning with the preschoolers and then make sandwiches for STAR in the afternoon, and students with Hencken work with the Missouri Secretary of State office to digitize older documents.
Burchett is also working with Steger science teachers Lisa Picker and Donald Knobbe to develop an experiential learning program at Steger.
Steger’s project is to develop an ecology center, and students have to opportunity to travel to Steger and help clear out all the honeysuckle in order to build the ecology center.
Students signed up for their choice of service the first week of March.