Nearly 200 Pierz students out and about helping in the community

Annual Pioneer Service Learning Day in its fourth year

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Pictured are Healy High School eighth-graders working in Mary Austin’s yard front row (from left): Sarah Medek, Paige Hayes and Damoris Hernandez. Hidden in the background is Beth-el Algarin.

Pictured are Healy High School eighth-graders working in Mary Austin’s yard front row (from left): Sarah Medek, Paige Hayes and Damoris Hernandez. Hidden in the background is Beth-el Algarin.

They walked the streets of Pierz carrying rakes, ready to help clean the yards of those who needed the help.

About 190 seventh- and eighth-grade students from Pierz Healy High School, along with adult chaperones, attacked fallen leaves, clearing the yards, before bagging it all up Thursday, as part of Pioneer Service Learning Day.

Mary Austin, one of the residents who benefitted from their service, said the kids “did a darned good job” in her yard.

The elderly widow, who broke her elbow in December 2012, said she’d never be able to do the work herself.

“Sign me up for next year,” she said with a smile.

“We’re making people happy,” said seventh-grader Payton Hammond. Although the temperatures were in the 30s, Hammond said it wasn’t “that cold.”

Adult chaperone Patty Block, left, lent a helping hand to seventh-graders Alex Gross and Jack Suska, as they cleaned Lorae Vardas’ yard.

Adult chaperone Patty Block, left, lent a helping hand to seventh-graders Alex Gross and Jack Suska, as they cleaned Lorae Vardas’ yard.

Rachel Werk, earth science teacher, who also coaches varsity softball and junior high volleyball, said Service Learning Day is a great opportunity for students. “To not only take pride in the community and school, but also take pride in giving back to their community,” she said.

The day is also used to promote the responsibility, trustworthiness and communication skills that come with caring for others, she said. “Positive character traits that we want all students to have,” said Werk.

In addition, Werk said it’s a special day that gives students an opportunity to get to know a classmate or community member they might not have taken the time to get to know before.

“It is great as an educator to see students who might struggle sitting in your classroom suddenly thrive and find success in this non-traditional outdoor classroom,” said Werk.

Seventh-grade teacher Rich Teske said once the kids were finished they’d head back to school for a snack.

“They work hard,” he said of the students. “It’s nice to see.”

Those supporting the students in their endeavor include Pierz Public Works Supervisor Bob Otremba; Hartmann’s Hardware Hank, Pierz Foods, Walmart and Elks Lodge of Brainerd.

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