PARKERSBURG - Some area students are earning classroom credit while learning on-the-job skills and how to serve their community.
Parkersburg High School and Parkersburg South High School offer community service classes, courses which give students the chance to work for a school or non-profit organization. The schools place dozens of students each semester in classrooms, offices and other work positions.
Natalie Sneigle, a teacher at Parkersburg High School, said the Community Services class has a dual purpose: To get students involved in community service and to prepare them for the workforce.
Photo by Michael Erb
Parkersburg South High School student Paige Dunn, left, reads a book to Franklin Elementary Center fourth-graders Chloe Britton, center, and Haley Church, right.
"We prepare them at the beginning of the semester to go out into different job sites and offer their services, to help with whatever it is their supervisors need," Sneigle said. "We try to teach them about initiative, about job responsibility, but also about serving people and the community."
Sneigle said students are required to write papers about their job experiences and are periodically evaluated on their job performance. Students also receive lessons on job-related skills, such as writing a resume or handling a job interview.
Joe Oliverio, principal of Worthington Elementary School, says he has made extensive use of the programs over the years.
"We've had students helping in the morning as children are arriving. We've used them in the cafeteria to watch over and talk to students during lunch periods. Other times we've had them helping with gym classes at the end of the day. They've been wonderful, and the kids love having the older students here working with them," he said.
Oliverio said the community service students act as mentors and role models to the younger students while helping teachers and administrative staff with tasks.
"It reinforces responsibility for the older students," he said. "It gets them out of the traditional classroom for a brief period of time and gives them a taste of different jobs and careers."
Kim Braun, a teacher at Parkersburg South High School, said the school's community service class gives students a unique opportunity. In addition to giving students job experience while still in high school, the class also serves another purpose.
"It's to promote volunteerism for the future," she said. "We are hoping to give students the opportunity to see what they can do out there."
Each class averages about 20-25 students, and Braun said job placement is based on interest and the ability to travel. The service usually fills a single class slot each day, about 90 minutes for South students.
"We try and find opportunities as close to the school as possible. That gives them an opportunity to spend a little longer time at the location," she said.
South also is unique because it shares a campus with Wood County Technical Center, giving students a few extra opportunities, including a working day care center.
"I've had students working in the day care and various places within our school system," Braun said.
Braun said some students have really excelled in their assignments. Parkersburg South High School senior Paige Dunn has been working with fourth-grade students at Franklin Elementary Center, a step she said required a small leap of faith on her part.
"My guidance counselor suggested I do this as a way to get over some of my nervousness with people," she said.
This semester Dunn spends an hour each school day working at Franklin with fourth-grade students, helping them with a variety of classroom activities.
The teacher "will send back a group to read with me and I will help them, help figure out words they don't know," Dunn said. "I help them proofread their work. It's helped me with my people skills because I've actually had to get up in front of the class and talk."
The best part, she said, has been getting to know the kids.
"You never know what's going to come out of their mouths," she said. "They are ornery and fun."
Dunn, who aspires to be an X-ray technician, said while working with the students, teachers and parents has helped her overcome some of her shyness, it has created a new anxiety.
"I'm nervous about the end of January, because that's when I have to leave," she said. The job "isn't really that hard. The hardest part is knowing I'll have to leave."
The Parkersburg high schools aren't the only ones with such programs. Randy Edge, assistant and acting principal at Williamstown High School, said the school offers a class called Work Base which gives students a chance to work with area offices, whether they are schools, non-profits or for-profit companies.
"We try to get them into something they are interested in doing," he said. "We have kids who go out to businesses because these are career choices they are interested in."
Edge said the class serves about 20 students a semester, all seniors, and can count as work toward a student's senior project which is required for graduation.