New volunteer program to link students with Seneca Valley municipalities
JACKSON TWP — A new program at Ryan Gloyer Middle School will see the school’s 10 teams of 120 students each perform community service projects in the nine municipalities comprising the school district.
Tony Babusci, principal at Ryan Gloyer, welcomed 10 administrators and elected officials from each of the nine municipalities Monday, March 6, where they enjoyed lunch while hearing Babusci outline the Community GrOWN program and its goals.
During a pre-lunch tour of the school for the officials, Babusci explained that students in seventh and eighth grades are randomly placed on a team when they enter the school.
The students then attend classes within their team’s area in the school instead of students moving between classes in all parts of the large building, Babusci said.
In the Community GrOWN program, each team will be assigned to a municipality. Babusci envisions a volunteer project happening in all municipalities in the spring.
Babusci told the officials in attendance the goal of the program is to engage students in all nine municipalities by completing community service projects.
“We want every kid in this building in the spring to be involved in some volunteer community-based work,” Babusci said.
Painting curbs, cleaning up parks or creek banks, minor repairs, sorting items, projects at volunteer fire departments, mulching and other tasks could be performed by the students, he said.
The municipality would provide any equipment or supplies necessary for the work.
“This is very much a developing concept. It’s brand new,” he said.
After the students attend a large service project in the spring, municipal leaders could contact the school if they have smaller projects. The school would then send the number of student volunteers the township or borough needs.
Mike Manipole, a health and physical education teacher at Seneca Valley and the chairman of the Cranberry Township supervisors, said children who help spruce up municipalities are less likely to vandalize them.
He said the students who performed community service for Cranberry Township in the past return with their parents to show off their work.
Students who painted lines at the volunteer fire department brought their folks back to show the crooked lines.
“We did five teams in five locations,” Manipole said.
He said the students worked with and got to know municipal employees and how their jobs are carried out.
The Community GrOWN program could entice students to become residents of the township as adults, Manipole said.
Dean Zinkhann, Evans City mayor, said he would like student volunteers to help with the military banner program he initiated in the county.
Brad Rubinosky, an Evans City borough councilman, said the school’s art students could help with a project council has been discussing to paint murals on the borough’s streets at crosswalks.
Mark Wilson, a Forward Township supervisor, suggested art students could create historical drawings of events in the township’s past, and science students could create signage detailing the flora and fauna along the township’s nature trail.
He added that all nine municipalities in the district are growing and are home to many people with no connection to the area.
Students bringing their parents to view their work would apprise parents of various township features and even could entice them to become more engaged in their municipalities, Wilson said.
In addition to the benefits of developing community awareness, realizing they can make a difference, fostering a community of caring, addressing community projects, engaging youth in a strong relationship with society and supporting the school communities, Babusci said leaders likely will emerge who do not necessarily excel at classroom-style learning.
He said hands-on work fosters learning and innovation as well.
“It might be something minimal they learn, but let them learn it in our communities,” Babusci said.
The municipal leaders thanked Babusci and his staff for initiating the project and said they would look forward to any email from the school regarding the program’s next steps.
The municipalities in the Seneca Valley School District are Cranberry, Forward, Jackson and Lancaster townships as well as Callery, Evans City, Zelienople, Seven Fields and Harmony.