COTTONWOOD - It made for an unusual sight. Lakeview High School students Travis Varpness, Joben Haack and Josh Meiners were crouched around a fire hydrant on Cottonwood's Main Street, armed with brushes and a can of fresh red paint.
"When people come up to the stop sign, they kind of give a look," Meiners said. But it was all for a good cause. "It makes the city look better."
The students sprucing up hydrants were completing one of the many projects scheduled for Lakeview's first Community Service Day. On Wednesday, students in grades 9-12 went out into the communities of Cottonwood and Wood Lake to help out with tasks ranging from cleaning ditches to assisting elderly residents and painting community buildings.
Photo by Deb Gau
Lakeview students were busy doing community service projects on Wednesday. Seth Boerboom put ceiling fan blades back in place after cleaning them.
"The planning started way back in November," said Barb Berg, one of the advisers for the Lakeview Student Council. Berg said Community Service Day was organized by student council senior members. The students applied for a Youth As Resources grant, and were awarded $500 to help make the service day possible. The school then approached the cities of Wood Lake and Cottonwood to find projects the students could do.
"(Superintendent Chris) Fenske has been very instrumental in working with the cities," Berg said.
In a short talk with students at the start of Community Service Day, Lakeview Principal Phil Lienemann said service projects were one way for students to fight negative stereotypes about teenagers and give back to their communities.
"The community has invested in your future," Lienemann said. "It was time to say 'thank you.'"
Students were split into groups along with teachers and other adults to begin their work. While some students were helping out with landscaping work and park cleanup in Wood Lake, others were putting up painter's tape in preparation to repaint the Cottonwood community center's meeting room and kitchen.
At Cottonwood's lakefront park, a group of about 20 students split up to pick up trash and repaint signs, picnic tables and a picnic shelter. Youth members of the Modern Woodmen also joined in by planting trees to replace several lost in last summer's storms.
At the picnic shelter, students Jacob Kesteloot and Jean Knutson were getting under the eaves with paint rollers.
"It's not bad. We'll just have to have someone come in later and do all the corners," Kesteloot said.
Students said they didn't know very far in advance what projects they'd be assigned to.
"I'm kind of glad I didn't have to clean ditches," said student Anissa Peppersack. She liked painting better.
Students Brian Ricke and Marisa Eaton were tasked with spray painting new backgrounds on some weather-beaten park signage, and then carefully repainting the raised letters. The two said the work seemed like a good fit for them.
"I paint. Not signs, but I paint," Eaton said.
"It's all right, I guess. You get to get out of class," Ricke said of the service day.
Eaton said she thought the service day was a good idea for Lakeview students.
"It teaches them responsibility," she said. "It also shows that they don't have to think it's dumb to give back."
"The feeling of helping people is always good," Peppersack said.