GEORGETOWN — Nearly 50 Georgetown High School students showed their dedication to beautifying their community by showing up the first day after the end of the Brown County Fair and spending an hour cleaning up the fairgrounds.
The students, all between grades 9-12 with at least a 3.5 GPA, picked up trash that’s normally strewn across the fairgrounds, and with the advancing age of members of the Brown County Senior Fair Board, it’s becoming harder for them to clean the fairgrounds on their own.
Chaperoned by teachers Heather Bertram and Chad McKibben, along with Superintendent Chris Burrows, the 48 students picked up trash along the main ring, grandstand, and the parking lots, where many folks spend the whole week in an RV.
The idea for this project came from Georgetown junior Lydia Powell, who already participates in post-fair cleanups with her youth group at the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.
Powell and her fellow students, who also serve as mentors for elementary students, were brainstorming ideas on how to give back to the community, when she suggested that the group participate in helping clean up the fairgrounds. To her surprise and delight, Bertram, McKibben, and the school administration jumped all over the idea and put the plan together.
“I guess sometimes when you give certain ideas, you’re not really thinking it will actually be done,” said Powell, who is a member of the Junior Fair Board and shows rabbits. “When this happened I was really excited, and I’m glad that so many people wanted to do this also.”
The new emphasis on community involvement came from the administration level, after they discovered in numerous conversations with community leaders that members of the school district didn’t feel that the school was doing enough outside of educating.
That led to a rewriting of the school district’s vision, which includes a paragraph emphasizing that every student group will complete a community project during the academic year “that serves the need of the community.”
“I talked to around 50 community members, and at least half of them, when I said ‘what’s the purpose (of our school)? why do we exist?’,” Burrows said. “My final question was ‘what can the school do for the community?’ and those people that didn’t have any kids necessarily still in school said they’d like to see the kids giving back, they’d like to see the kids active in the community, they’d like to see them doing service projects to show pride in the community, and believing and investing in something bigger than themselves.”
By Burrows recollection, it’s the first time in his 16-plus years in education that he’s seen a student start a movement to give back to the community.
“I couldn’t be more proud today as a superintendent,” Burrows said. “When you get a group of 14-18-year-old kids that want to do something for someone else, it’s pretty impressive.”
According to McKibben, all Georgetown Junior Senior High School students have an advisory period during the week. But this specific group of students has the option on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays to opt-out of that class to either mentor, take a study hall, or take part in a community project.
Although cleaning up the fairgrounds may not be the most fun activity for the students, Powell hopes that the values they learn from this experience will stay with them.
“I hope that they will notice what a good thing they are doing, and maybe apply it somewhere else in their life,” Powell said. “It doesn’t even have to be as big as this, but some small way would also be good. Especially if they raise their kids this way and affect future generations to become better.”
Added Burrows, “Lydia, she hit the nail on the head.”