URBANA — Urbana High School seniors spent Friday volunteering, learning more about possible careers and gearing up for college.
It was the school's first College, Career and Community Day for the seniors, which Principal Matthew Stark said was not a day off, but a chance for seniors to prepare for their futures or contribute to the community.
The school's freshman, juniors and seniors were taking various tests, and the high school had early dismissal because of a staff development day.
Rather than require seniors to attend an already-disrupted day of school, Stark said, he wanted them to contribute to their community, a tradition he's noticed in Urbana through service clubs and organizations.
"It's a strong community sentiment to give back," Stark said. "This is an opportunity for them to do so."
Students were encouraged to do things related to their transitional senior year, but might otherwise miss class time for.
They could visit a college, do a job-shadow in a career they're interested in or spend the day either volunteering around the school with various neighbors or within the community with Habitat for Humanity, the Champaign County Humane Society or even in their neighborhoods.
A volunteer from the University of Illinois came to the school to help students with their college applications and essays, and others will prepare for interviews they'll go through when they seek internships.
Students had to submit a permission slip from their parents in order to participate and were expected to be at school for an alternative assignment if they chose not to volunteer or work on something college- or career-related.
Stark said the high school will track the results of the seniors' work Friday.
"We will know more (about what students did) once the results come in," he said.
Teacher Amy Boscolo, who is doing an internship as she earns her administrative certification, helped organize the day with several other faculty and staff members. She said she hopes students will see what life will be like once they're not in high school any more. She said she's also hoping that after students volunteer during a school day, they'll be encouraged to do so on their own time in the future.
Senior Makayla Perkins is in the Executive Intern Workshop and spent Friday at the school going through mock internship interviews with volunteer UI business students.
"I think it's a good opportunity for the seniors," Perkins said. "It's a day they can get a head start, if they haven't."
Seniors Lauren Meeker, Troy Cobb and Alexa Waller were among several students who volunteered with the school's new Habitat for Humanity Club at the organization's Restore in Champaign.
Meeker said club members wanted to volunteer at the ReStore when they heard about the College, Career and Community Day.
Club members also raise money at the school and volunteer at Urbana's Market at the Square as they raise money to take a build trip to the Mississippi Delta next semester.
The club also volunteers at Habitat build sites once a month locally.
Cobb said the students were taking items at the ReStore and finding ways to show shoppers how to repurpose them in their homes.
Waller said she was happy for the opportunity.
"I think it's cool that our principal is making it a big thing for everyone to volunteer," Waller said.
Sheila Dodd, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County, said she's happy to see the students getting involved. Others might hear negative things about youth in the community, but not those who work at Habitat.
"That's not what we see," she said. "We see kids giving up their time to work in our store ... and on our build sites and are excited to give back to their community."
Dodd said the students save the organization staff costs by volunteering in the ReStore.
"It's good for the next generation to understand (Habitat's) mission and the impact we have on the community," Dodd said.