LAKE FOREST — Eighth graders at Deer Path Middle School got a morning off from classes last week, but it was an opportunity for community service rather than extra leisure time.
The Deer Path class of 2018 participated in the school’s sixth annual Community Service Day October 13 doing gardening, cleaning horse stalls and more to help accumulate 2018 hours spent giving back in Lake Forest and the greater Lake County Community.
The class of approximately 230 students has a goal of performing 2018 hours of community service this term as a group, according to Principal Renee DeVore. She said the goal was 2017 hours last year and it will be 2019 two years from now. It averages between seven and eight hours per student. They all got two Friday.
DeVore said the hours are not an actual graduation requirement but students seem to come already motivated to help others. They have until May 1 to complete their projects. On Community Service Day the students got to pick from 18 different organizations.
“It’s an opportunity for kids to come together and see for themselves what they might want to do with the rest of their community service,” said DeVore. “They might find something they want to do again.”
One Group Helps Out at Equestrian Connection
One group of students was cleaning horse stalls at Equestrian Connection in Lake Forest to help get the place ready for a major benefit for 700 people which took place October 14, according to Executive Director Diana Schnell.
The organization uses horseback riding as therapy for persons ranging from young children through senior citizens, according to Collette Collins, the program director.
For eighth grader Lilly Akintade choosing Equestrian Connection was an easy decision to make.
“Horses are fun to be around,” said Akintade. “I really like being here.”
Community Service Day began six years ago when DeVore first arrived at Deer Path. She said members of the APT (Association of Parents and Teachers) came to her with the idea. She liked it and got it going with help from the APT.
“The moms do everything,” said DeVore. “They started working on this last (school) year. It shows the family values we have here.”
Mary Kay Hanlon, one of the APT co-chairs of the event, spent the morning in a variety of places with students ranging from Lake Forest to Waukegan. She said it gets young people into the practice of interrupting their daily routine to help others.
“It’s good to get out of the bubble,” Hanlon said referring the privilege and opportunity youngsters have in Lake Forest. “It’s good the kids get a choice so they can see all the ways they can make a difference.”
Elawa Farm Provides Opportunities
Another place with abundant activities was Elawa Farm where one group helped out at the Wildlife Discovery Center and another at the farm itself where a group of them were pulling parts of vegetables out of the ground for a different purpose.
“We’re uprooting plants and taking them to make compost,” said eighth grader Gabe Hense as he carried a container of leaves from different vegetables to a compost bin. “It’s going to help other plants grow.”
Picking Elawa Farm was an easy choice for eighth grade student Marlo Campbell.
“I love gardening,” said Campbell. “I like pulling things out of the ground to help other plants grow. I’m going to do more of this. I get to do something I like and help Elawa.
Along with finding out what volunteer activities they like and do not like, DeVore said the day also creates new friendships.
Along with Equestrian Connection, Elawa Farm and the Wildlife Discovery Center, students went to eight other places in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff. Some like Lake Forest Library and CROYA, are publically run while others like Fill a Heart 4 Kids are private organizations based in town.
Other Places the eighth graders volunteered in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff were Bernie’s Book Bank, Forest and Found, Lake Forest Parks and Recreation, Lake Forest Open Lands and Ragdale Foundation.
Those who ventured outside Lake Forest and Lake Bluff went to Beacon Place, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lake County and House of Peace in Waukegan. They also helped out at Lake County Haven in Libertyville, North Chicago Community Partners, the West Deerfield Township Food Pantry in Deerfield and a Lake County Forest Preserve.