Regina Dayton has created a community service program that has touched the hearts of so many students and parents. Her efforts have resulted in community leaders and parents working together to expand her program citywide and make it available to all youth. Maria Moser, one of Dayton’s students, described what Dayton does best when she says, “There is a revolution taking place in the Strongsville High School. It is not the result of television or music, or students who are desensitized. It is a result of teachers who care; of students who want to make a difference; and a school that is changing the way it treats one another. It is a revolution of kindness.”
SHINE (Students Helping In Neighborhoods Everywhere) started in 1998 with just 20 students. Many believed that it would not succeed. Their activities began small with coat drives, flowers to Columbine High School and planting flowers at hospice. The program grew to include more than 300 students and their activities now range from AIDS walks to food drives; from Special Olympics to leaf raking for the elderly.
One of the most important projects that Dayton and her students did was to reintroduce the Pledge of Allegiance to the high school. Many of the parents felt that in today’s times it was really important to find a way to remind all of the kids that despite our differences, we are one nation-one people. Dayton and her group did a veteran’s day program in which they presented a flag to each veteran and led the school for the first time in many years in the Pledge of Allegiance. Since then, the Pledge is recited every week. For this work, Dayton and her students received a commendation from the Ohio Senate, the Strongsville city council and a note of congratulations from George W. Bush.
Dayton has drawn the entire community together. Whether it is working on specific service projects or working to expand the program to a citywide program, she has spread the spirit of volunteerism and community involvement through the city. She has helped the community to refocus its priorities on youth and helping neighbors. She has been so successful in leading the community because she lets the kids lead her. She started with allowing them to select projects. What makes her unique is her ability to bring different types and ages together and get them to not only work together, but to love working together.
The city is now in the process of creating a citywide Youth Council that will provide ongoing opportunities for community service and civic involvement. Dayton, Mayor Ehrnfelt, Councilman Mike Gallagher, members of the School Board and many parents are working together to raise the funds that will be necessary to maintain a permanent and ongoing support system for youth. The school intends to implement a mandatory community service requirement. Regina Dayton has worked to awaken the city of Strongsville as to how rewarding service to others can be and how important it is to focus time and resources on bringing those opportunities to youth.