Bertram Rantin

RANTIN: Community service is Heyward Gibbes Middle School’s mantra

Heyward Gibbes Middle School students were buzzing with service across the school campus and throughout the community Friday.

As some painted a mural, planted gardens or wrote letters to soldiers, others from the Richland 1 school fanned out into surrounding areas to read to youngsters, help Keep American Beautiful clean up an area park, and pack personal care kits for the homeless.

The work was part of the school’s fifth day of community service, as the students teamed with City Year youth service corps members for the various projects.

“Their neighborhood is not just who they live by,” said Gibbes assistant principal Solomon Smalls. “They learn that the community is the entire earth and we all depend on each other.”

In recent weeks the Gibbes students have been learning about various community needs and the importance of helping others.

“This day is really important,” eighth-grader Sumieko Howard said, adding that service shouldn’t be limited to outside communities.

“We’re doing stuff to beautify our community and make it more appealing to others,” she said. “It makes me feel better about my school and my community.”

Before Friday’s work started, Gibbes eighth-grader Justin Keitt addressed the school student body about the importance of service.

“Volunteers are the building block for the future,” he said.

Justin said he’s taken that philosophy into his own neighborhood where he helps the elderly by doing yard work, walking pets and doing other chores.

Friday’s day of service offered Gibbes students the chance to work side by side with their mentors from City Year. The education-focused nonprofit places youth core members in high need public schools to provide full-time targeted student interventions.

“We want our students to know the value of service,” said John Taylor Jr., one of nine City Year members who volunteer at the school.

Taylor said corps members believe one of the best ways for students to invest in the community is through hands-on involvement.

“Service is not just about picking up trash” but fully engaging with the community, he said.