The tradition of service to the community can be traced to the example of our Founding Fathers; some of whom were Stafford county residents. However, the county’s character has changed markedly. Stafford is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, with a 53% growth rate and will open five new schools in the next two years. With a dramatic rise in population and an increasingly transient nature, students no longer share the same sense of community.
Student Serving Stafford (SSS) began 10 years ago as a very limited program and has expanded to include service-learning opportunities for students at the high school level either through enrollment in Learn and Serve classes and/or after school placement for credit. Experiences while in school allow students to hone citizenship skills and develop the ability to lead projects, develop action plans, and organize other to the betterment of the community as a whole.
Last year SSS engaged 120 students in 58 community projects and logged more than 8,000 volunteer hours. These students developed a strong sense of community by participating in the SSS program. They see themselves as citizens of their county, region, state, nation and world community. To this end, specific activities included, but were not limited to:
National Make a Difference Day:
· Students coordinated the fall Rappahannock River Clean Up with the Friends of the Rappahannock with over 200 participants resulting in 12,000 pounds of trash collected as well as environmental education provided to youth participants.
· Students’ responsibilities were as follows: design and distribute event flyers, develop a participant data base, provide safety briefs to participants, solicit food donations, design and deliver environmental education, and send Thank You letters to participants.
Month of Youth Service:
· Spring Rappahannock River Clean Up (description and duties listed above) – 175 volunteers and approximately 12,000 pounds of trash.
· Glories “Happy Hats” workshop – 120 youth and 50 adults contributed over 271 hours of service to the community by participating in a 2 hour, 12 step workshop to design and complete over 300 court jester style hats for children at Inova Fairfax Children’s Hospital.
· Designed and built a “Jeopardy” board game for the Stafford County “R” Board. The Stafford County Beautification Committee uses the “Jeopardy” board game in an effort to bring environmental education to the students of county students. Students served as peer mentors as they demonstrated the need to be kind to the environment by utilizing by utilizing the “Jeopardy” board game on Earth Day with over 500 middle school students.
· Attended training to understand the need for and specifics on growing Bay Grasses. The program replenishes underwater vegetation in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
· Students served on committees to implement service projects for the Month of Youth Service.
Ongoing volunteer service includes a project where students tutor twice a week at seven elementary schools and once a week at Head start Family Literacy Night. The SSS program is a well respected program in the community providing the community with well trained students that are prepared to plan, implement, and evaluate projects and programs in their communities. Students Serving Stafford build strong citizens and gives students the opportunities to give of themselves and establishes an expectation of service. Our students are tomorrow’s leaders.