When Jefferson Middle School social studies teacher and content area chairwoman Christine Adrian heard last spring about Rotary's plan to start an essay contest for eighth-grade students, she realized it would work well with her current class requirements that students volunteer.
She requires students to volunteer four hours each semester and then write about their experiences.
Students volunteer in varied ways, from helping out or babysitting in their own homes to volunteering with community organizations. Others serve as tutors.
Adrian's students have volunteered with the Champaign County Humane Society, Crisis Nursery in Urbana, Salt and Light in Champaign and at local nursing homes.
"They come with these ideas on their own," Adrian said, although she starts them off with a brainstorming session of how they can volunteer.
The service learning aspect of Adrian's curriculum is intended to teach students "that we're all part of one community," Adrian said, "that it takes all community members, no matter your age."
It comes at a time when many students that age are figuring out their place in the world, Adrian said.
"I think it's really important for them to realize their influence and decisions affect the community," she said.
The Rotary essay, of which all the students at least wrote a rough draft, "partners perfectly" with what she tries to teach, Adrian said.
"There's a heavy focus in eighth grade on civics," she said, which means watching the news and researching people around the world who are making a difference.
Here are what some of her students wrote about their volunteer work. All are eighth-graders at Jefferson:
— "I would tell others that volunteering is really hard and sometimes you see things that tell you that the world isn't perfect. You also have to be ready to see stuff like that, because it's always going to be there and you'll see it every day. I would tell them this because I want them to know the truth. Even if it is a little scary. The world may not be perfect, but we need to work on getting close to being perfect." — Kira Bjerke
— "I would tell others that volunteering is very fulfilling and can make you feel better about yourself and can also benefit the people you're helping by your volunteer work. I would tell them about how it makes you want to do more and help others often. I would say that if everyone could just do simple things, we could all make the world such a better place. I would explain that volunteering shouldn't be a chore but a way of having something fun and fulfilling to do." — Jenna Deluce
— "If I was to convince others that volunteering is important, I would tell them that a lot of people need help and that they could make a big difference for those who need help. I could tell them how many various possibilities there are to choose from as your volunteer activity, and how even a small deed could affect others' lives. If every citizen of Champaign would do something small to help others, when all this help would be combined, our community would become much wealthier, cleaner, friendlier and more beautiful." — Anna Dmitrieva
— "Volunteering also really helps you as a person because it shows you the things that we take granted for, and you understanding that you can get goals done without being paid or rewarded, the biggest reward you could have is happiness." — Allaa Fadl-Alla
— "I would tell my friends that volunteering is an honorable act for kids my age to do. I would also tell them that volunteering would make them feel comfortable when someone talks about leadership, because, volunteering truly is comfortable, honorable and fun." — Marwan Mohamed
— "It is good to help people because you never know when you need help. During my volunteer work I helped out a lot, even though it was super strenuous for me. I also learned about karma. This meant when you do something good, good things happen to you." — Wyatt Sommer