School community service rises

Published 10:53 pm Saturday, May 12, 2018

The School Board received an update on high school students’ community service hours at its Thursday evening meeting at Nansemond River High School.

About 78 percent of Suffolk’s senior class has met the 50-hour requirement, and there are still students turning in their paperwork every day, according to Dr. Stenette Byrd III, director of secondary leadership.

Most seniors have made a huge jump in hours from March to April, making sure they can graduate. Seniors in Suffolk had accumulated 29,741 hours by March, and the figure had increased to 48,6665 by April. That is an increase of almost 20,000 hours.

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The number is a vast improvement from last year’s senior class. With just two months left before graduation last year, less than 48 percent of students had completed their hours to graduate. Last year’s class was the first to have to meet the requirement.

Byrd listed a number of improvements the division made to ensure seniors would be able to complete their community service hours.

Some of their improvements include recognition for students that have met the yearly recommended timeline.

The school division has recommended that ninth-grade students complete 16 hours and sophomores and juniors should complete 17 hours per year to complete the requirement with a year to spare.

If students meet the target by April 15 of each year, they receive a recognition letter and certificate.

“We are doing much better than last year,” said Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney. “With these incentives, hopefully they can meet their goals.”

The School Board inquired if there were other incentives for the students besides a certificate.

“The first step was to implement the actual certificate. We talked about others, but our first step was just the certificate,” Byrd said.

Other improvements include allowing students to start accumulating their community service hours as early as sixth grade. This gives them seven years to reach their 50-hour goal.

Students will start to get formal reminders of the requirements during the second and third quarters during the school year, and the schools are providing more opportunities at each school to earn hours.

Last year, when school officials realized some students weren’t completing the hours in a timely manner, one suggestion was to implement a modified transcript to show hours earned. This was an improvement presented at the meeting Thursday night. The transcript will show the hours earned to date, and it will be mailed at the end of the school year.

As of April, all students in Suffolk have completed 81,513 hours of community service, and 1 percent of freshman students have already completed their 50 hours.

“We have obviously done something right to get them involved,” School Board member Lorraine Skeeter said.