“The biggest message we can send is we are a community school and we are going to take one day to give back to the community, which supports us during the school year,” said Autumn O’Bryan, CHS principal.
Activities were split between grade levels. Students stayed with their Connections group, advisory classes, for the day’s activities.
Ninth-graders were transported to Cleveland State to discuss the next three years of their high school careers. Sophomores stayed at the high school and were visited by Lee University. They received training on service-learning before completing tasks around the school. Juniors took the ACTs before joining the school for afternoon activities. Seniors loaded onto buses to complete acts of service within the Cleveland community.
“We call it service-learning instead of community service because community service is you go, work and come back,” O’Bryan said. “Our point is we want them to learn something about themselves and their community. We try to do some preliminary activities before they go and after they do their service in order to gain some type of value from the activity outside of, ‘Hey, I worked all day.’”
According to O’Bryan, Lee University’s Leonard Center, service-learning department, originally helped piece together Raider Outreach four years ago.
Stephanie Pirkle, CHS SLC site coordinator, said the two-year partnership with Cleveland State has also been beneficial.
“They hosted the event for the freshmen. Their faculty and staff worked and they do programs with the freshmen about the four-year plan and making good college and career choices,” Pirkle said. “They also make lunch for them. They have been very good partners with us in respect to our ninth grade.”
Pirkle said CHS students have garnered a good reputation within the community through Raider Outreach.
“What I do is call and find out who will host us. The thing about it now is people are really pleased to have our students come,” Pirkle said. “They are very welcoming of our students. When I call and say, ‘This is Stephanie from CHS and we would like to send a group of seniors,’ they say, ‘That would be great.’”
“We have received a very positive response and I think it says a lot about the behavior of our students.”
O’Bryan said all students who show up to school on Raider Outreach Day are included in the festivities.
“We don’t screen the students we take. We send everybody. I think a lot of times administrators might be afraid to put them out there, but they never act up,” O’Bryan said. “... It gives the community an opportunity to see our teenagers in the light we see them every day, which is, they are amazing. They are teenagers, but they are amazing.”
Seniors participated in activities throughout the community, from churches to local elementary schools. Connections groups are encouraged to choose an activity they are interested in or passionate about.
Pirkle said she enjoyed seeing the kids complete service-learning in the community.
“When we walked in to this room [at a nursing home] this little girl was bent over painting a lady’s fingernails, and I thought that was a cool deal,” Pirkle said.
Added O’Bryan, “And some of our wrestlers were calling out bingo numbers.”
Pirkle agreed, “One of our wrestlers called out a number and some gentleman said, ‘I wish he would call out such-and-such number,’ and a student responded, ‘He just did!’”
Pirkle and O’Bryan said the special day would not be possible without the help of community partners. These included: United Community Bank; Bender Realty; SkyRidge Medical Center; DeArmond and Stewart, D.D.S., P.C.; Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation; Cooke’s Food Stores; Cleveland State Community College; and Life Care Centers of America.
“Every year we have had such great partnerships with community groups, and I think I would like to see continued partnerships,” O’Bryan said.
“I think the thing which impresses me the most is every year, it never fails, I have several students and several teachers mention this is the best day. It really impresses me we have teachers who take advantage of the opportunity and what it means.”