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Maquoketa Valley junior Jenavieve LeGassick, center, and Jordyn LeGassick volunteer with the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

A new program at Maquoketa Valley High School encourages students to volunteer their time and talents for the betterment of the school and community through service projects.

A press release, dated Sept. 15 states, “Maquoketa Valley High School students are now able to earn a service award at graduation upon completing a certain number of volunteer hours throughout their high school years. Students are encouraged to embrace service projects to develop new skills, network with adults and peers, and serve the greater good.”

Maquoketa Valley’s yet-to-be-named service organization will replace the school’s National Honor Society Chapter, according to advisor Diane Temple.

“Due to affiliation costs and duplication of recognition, MV will discontinue its membership to the National Honor Society and will begin a service program for students,” wrote Temple in a document presented to the Maquoketa Valley Board of Education. “Students will be made aware of service opportunities, given opportunities to lead service projects, held responsible for tracking their service hours and accomplishments, and recognized publicly at graduation.

“The goal is to recognize students who have contributed to their community or school by volunteering their time and talents. An increasing number of scholarship applications require applicants to list service experiences. Additionally, volunteer time often leads to employment and future educational opportunities as well as helps students to understand the connection between school, work and community.”

Community acceptance and support of the program has been positive, explained Temple.

“I’ve been pleased to receive requests from a variety of programs outside of the school as well as within the school,” she said. “I’d like to see all of our students embrace the power of volunteering, especially in the community.

“Maquoketa Valley is fortunate to have tremendous support from the communities, and having students participate in service projects shows appreciation and a desire to see those projects continue. Although it’s too early to know exactly how many students are working toward the goal of earning their service award, I anticipate that more students will participate more actively after this year’s graduation ceremony.

Students will be phased into the program — modeled after Monticello’s Silver Service Program — with the Class of 2022 required to accumulate 75 volunteer hours before May 1, 2022, the Class of 2023 will need 150 hours before May 1, 2023, the Class of 2024 will need 225 hours before May 1, 2024 and the Class of 2025 and beyond will need 300 hours.

Maquoketa Valley junior Jenavieve LeGassick is one of numerous students to embrace the opportunity.

“My church does a lot of volunteering, so I often go with them. We had a youth conference where we all did service for three hours and it was really fun,” said LeGassick. “I have done service by helping out after the derecho, making blankets for kids in need, packing food at HACAP and helping out locally with the food drive.

“Promoting teenagers to help uplift their community is a great idea. Not only does this help those around us who are struggling, but it makes us feel like we are doing something good in this world. I know that for me, seeing someone smile after I have helped them is enough to brighten my whole day.”

While the program is in its infancy, Temple is excited about the potential for student growth.

“By having this program, the district hopes students will see the lasting benefits of volunteering that go beyond ‘looking good’ on a scholarship application,” said Temple. ”Through volunteer work, students can develop friendships, hobbies and a sense of belonging.”