For one student group, service learning has become an important component of their education.
Columbian Connection students spend two days a week going out into the community to help others.
There are 45 ninth- and 10th-grade students in the program. In addition to their community work, the program gives TC students extra one-on-one time with their teachers, said Meliah Siebenaller, Columbian language arts teacher and service learning adviser.
PHOTO BY NICOLE WALBY
Sophomore Levi Feasel (left) helps third-graders McKenna Mathias and Kaitlyn Probino with their math homework.
Serena Ratliff, a ninth-grader at Columbian, said helping others has made her feel better about herself.
"We have been able to meet many different people and to help make them feel better about themselves," Ratliff said.
She said seeing and helping people with disabilities has encouraged her to pursue a related career after high school.
Students have shelved books at Tiffin-Seneca Public Library; read to and helped elementary students with homework; and played bingo and sang karaoke with residents at Autumnwood Care Center.
"I think we have found the 'missing ingredient' in some of our group activities and interactions with teens who are excited to be paying it forward," said Mary Creeger, therapeutic recreation and marketing director and volunteer coordinator for Volunteers of America at Autumnwood.
Creeger said when the group started karaoke with the residents, they were timid. By the end of their visit, students had started interacting with residents and making stronger connections.
The students are to help hide eggs for the Community Easter Egg Hunt at Zimmerman Park, Creeger said.
"Our auxiliary members have been the most impressed with our student volunteers," Creeger said. "Several of them have commented on how polite they are, how much they seem to enjoy helping out and how nice it is to see them creating relationships with those who call Autumnwood their home."
Sophomore Donovan McGee said he enjoys service learning and seeing what there is in the community.
"I enjoy being able to help out others and give back to the community," McGee said.
Many Autumnwood residents hear negative talk about teenagers, and "these students are putting those rumors to rest," Creeger said.
"They would be a welcome addition to any organization who is looking for good volunteers," she said. "We are very appreciative of the opportunity."