Editor’s note: We have made this story free to read in hopes that you will see firsthand our dedication to keeping our community informed and connected. Will you consider now? For just $1 a week, you will support non-editorial local news and be up to date on what’s happening in the community. Consider reading more by clicking here.
Some students in York County have recently had some extra time on their hands with their newly adopted “alternative schedule,” requiring they attend school just two to three days per week.
As parents grapple with what to do with their children during the day, administrators at the Youth Volunteer Corps of Hampton Roads saw an opportunity for students to learn more about nonprofit work and community service in the program.
“A lot of times our service projects are not at an ideal time for the organizations we serve so…we saw this as a great opportunity to bring our youth volunteers to our partnering organizations during the week,” said Katie Morgan, executive director for the Youth Volunteer Corps of Hampton Roads.
Morgan and her partner Kimberly Moore, program director for the local affiliate, have implemented a weekday project calendar specific to students from Grafton Middle and High schools, York High, and Tabb Middle School.
Since Feb. 14 the group has completed five service projects with up to 20 volunteers at a time working at locations including the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank and The Gardens at Warwick Forest senior community.
The team-based projects typically end with a reflection activity or a service learning lesson helping the volunteers understand more the needs of the community and the local population, Morgan said.
The program goes beyond “planting the seed for service.”
“We also want them to have those 21st-century career skills where they’re communicating effectively, problem-solving, and developing interpersonal skills to work with people they don’t know and who are maybe different from them,” she said.
Earlier this month, a fire at the Grafton School Complex triggered the sprinkler system and required the facility to be evacuated as smoked filled the building. The fire destroyed the complex’s electrical panel and knocked out the power to both Grafton Middle and High schools.
York County School Division administrators introduced an alternative schedule the following week directing Grafton students to share campuses at York High and Tabb Middle schools on alternating days — Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for Tabb and York High students and Tuesdays and Thursdays plus 10 Saturdays for Grafton students.
Administrators said in an emailed statement to parents Wednesday they’re taking additional actions to adjust the schedules for the remainder of the school year based on recent findings of additional damage.
RELATED STORY: Here’s an update on the Grafton School Complex (Free read)
“We obviously can’t program something for 2,200 kids,” Morgan said. “But even if we can get 20 kids every day, doing something meaningful then it would help that bit…we all as a community are committed to being part of the solution and not just complaining about it.”
Close to 18 Grafton students worked to clean part of the Noland Trail at The Mariners’ Museum and Park Wednesday where they’d learn more about erosion prevention from the on-duty trail technician.
It’s an opportunity, Morgan said, the group wouldn’t typically get if they were volunteering in the evenings or weekends and when most weekday workers are off.
“It put us in a different kind of position where we can give the kids more of an everyday experience of a nonprofit, how they’re serving the community, and what their mission is and allowing them to see in a more ‘real’ way,'” she said.
In the project before, Grafton High students were invited to prepare more than 10,000 teddy bears for survivors of sexual assault with Fear 2 Freedom.
As one of 40 Youth Volunteer Corps affiliates across the country, there’s no shortage of service projects. Morgan said there are still opportunities to volunteer for weekend and summer projects, and there are already at least three more upcoming weekday projects.
Learn more about Youth Volunteer Corps of Hampton Roads or sign up for projects by clicking here.