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Published: 11/8/2006

Community service requirement is adopted

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Cardinal Stritch High School will be issuing an SOS during the second semester of the 2006-07 school year.

But it won't be a call for help - it'll be a promise to help the community.

Administrators at the Oregon school plan to implement the Stewards of Stritch community service program, also known as SOS. Through the program, students will be required to complete 60 hours of community service by the first day of their senior year as a requirement for graduation.

"What we're trying to get them to do is recognize the gifts that they have and use them effectively to build up their community," said Mike Gocsik, the school's vice president of institutional advancement.

But because this school year is the program's inaugural year, officials will be pro-rating the requirements. Seniors are not required to complete any hours, but juniors need 10 hours, sophomores need 30, and freshmen need 50 - all to be done by the time they're seniors.

Mr. Gocsik said work at Stritch will not be counted toward SOS hours. Rather, the work must be done for free in the community on a student's own time under some type of supervision.

"The goal is to get them beyond our borders," Mr. Gocsik said. "We want them to start getting involved in experiencing needs outside of Cardinal Stritch High School."

Students will be encouraged to begin looking for volunteer opportunities through their parishes. From there, they could branch out to look for opportunities to volunteer at nursing homes, soup kitchens, and hospitals, or through local organizations, such as Habitat for Humanity, said Clare Smith, the service program coordinator.

"It's going to teach them that it's important to give back to a community that's given to them," she said.

A student's hours will be tallied and tracked by Mrs. Smith and the school's three other theology teachers. For each hour earned, students are required to fill out a form that asks them to describe what they did, who benefitted from it, and how the experience touched them or changed their thinking.

"We are committed to be a model of Catholic stewardship," Mr. Gocsik said. "That's what this school is, what we were founded on, and what we are going to be."

Requiring students to volunteer in their communities is not a new idea at other private Toledo-area high schools.

A student's Bible grade is affected at Emmanuel Christian School in northwest Toledo if he or she does not complete the required service hours each semester, said Bob Flamm, administrative principal.

Freshmen are required to complete three hours per semester, sophomores need four, juniors need five, and seniors are to complete six.

Students at Notre Dame Academy in Toledo have been required to perform 50 hours of community service each school year as part of the curriculum for the past several years, said Lisa Matthews, director of communications.

"Part of our mission is that our girls not only develop intellectually, but know how to give back to the community," she said. "It's a fulfillment process."

At Central Catholic High School, students need 20 hours of community service each year as part of the Christianity in Action program at the Toledo school, said Mark Tooman, vice president of operations and communications.

"It's generally something that is received very well by the families and it gives kids opportunities to interact with community service organizations," he said. "It tends to be a real growing experience for them."



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