Look around your communities and you’re bound to see a program, that although somewhat controversial at first, has grown into a real positive for our towns. We’re talking about the senior project programs at Tonasket and Oroville. Through the efforts of our school districts there have been many improvements led by our senior high school students.
Although we might not always seem them, some of these projects really stand out like the scoreboards at the Bud Clark Ballfields in Oroville, a project taken on by a couple different seniors over the years. Now we have a senior student who wants to refurbish the “Welcome to Oroville” lettering on the Welcome Gate as you enter downtown. Another Oroville senior is putting her efforts into a new, larger veterans memorial at the city’s aptly named Osoyoos Lake Veterans Memorial Park. There are benches at city hall, a sign fabricated from metal by another senior at Centennial Park, as well as the directional sign there. An Oroville student also arranged for the Challenge Day and another student added her name to those have who have put on the career fair at the school each year.
Other projects maybe aren’t as visible as say the new paint on the Oroville Police Station and Fire Hall, but are just as important. These projects, although still hands on, are more organizational. A Tonasket senior student helped with the Green Okanogan eWaste collection last year. That project helped to round up 10 full-size pallets of old computers and computer monitors. The valuable metals in this electronic waste will be recycled and some of the more toxic metals, like lead, won’t be reintroduced to the environment. A couple of other Tonasket senior students will be tackling several a project at the Tonasket Rodeo Grounds. They plan on having a work day where volunteers will be pulling nails at the grandstands and replacing them with screws.
Along with the projects, senior need a certain number of volunteer hours as well. That might include setting up chairs for a meeting or helping a non-profit group with one of their own projects.
We say that at first the senior projects with their “volunteer” hours were considered controversial by some. But where a few schools like Tonasket and Oroville were early adopters of these types of programs, many states have made them part of the graduation requirements. So, if these things are requirements for graduation, “how can they be considered volunteer hours?” some people asked. Maybe they aren’t strictly a volunteer when they need to put in the hours to graduate, but they are improving our communities and they are exposing our students to what it means to be a volunteer.
With our busy lives many people still find time for things like the Tonasket Kiwanis, American Legion, Royal Neighbors, Rodeo Clubs, Booster Clubs and other church, fraternal and volunteer organizations that strive to do good in our communities.
Perhaps by giving our soon-to-be graduating students a taste of what it’s like to volunteer and to give back to the communities that have so generously supported them through tax dollars and encouragement, we are teaching them a valuable lesson that will make them better citizens. Whether you call it “do unto others” or karma, maybe in turn they will play it forward and become the next council or school board member, firefighter or Kiwanian or Royal Neighbor, and give back to wherever their lives take them.