Lending a Hand

Class of 2024 gives back to their Austin community for Senior Service Day
Senior and teacher volunteers check each row of crops for pests and dried leaves at the Community First village garden Wednesday, April 24. The group also spent their senior service day transfer-planting in the Community First chicken coop, watering, and removing weeds and fungus from the previous day’s rain.

Wednesday morning, April 24, all seniors arrived at the Chap Court at 8:15 a.m. to pick up their Senior Service Day blue t-shirts, “Chaps” water bottles, and name tags. Just a few weeks prior, the class of 2024 chose the organizations they would spend three hours, from 9 a.m.-12 p.m., volunteering for the day, accompanied by their senior peers, parents and teachers.  

Senior Mary Eliza Boone poses with a kayak and trash-grabber in hand at TRC rowing dock, ready to embark on the lake with other student volunteers Wednesday, April 24. “My friends and I decided to sign up to pick up trash on Lady Bird Lake,” Senior Claire Boone said. “Our biggest takeaway is that Austin is such a beautiful city and that it’s very important to do our part and keep it clean!” (Courtesy)

With a plethora of organizations to choose from, senior students spent their days quite differently from one another all over the Austin area. Students gardened at Community First village, spent time with furry friends, got to know senior residents and residents of homeless shelters, and cleaned up Austin’s public spaces such as the Town Lake Trail. 

“I volunteered at the Austin Wildlife Rescue,” senior Pooja Kulkarni said. “We helped line animal cages with rubber mesh to ensure the next animal coming to live in these cages would be provided with a safe environment upon arrival at the rescue center.”

Many organizations, similar to Kulkarni’s, tasked their volunteers with preparing spaces for the people or animals who use them regularly. 

“I volunteered at the Eanes Development Center at Valley View,” senior Scarlett Melear said. “We were tasked with rearranging drawers and cabinets and disinfecting countertops where the preschools are taught.”

These opportunities also provided connections for the volunteers, who got to know the communities they were helping while they were helping them. 

“I met with some of the preschool teachers along with a handful of kids throughout my service,” Melear said. “The teachers assigned me a classroom to clean up where I could interact with the children as I did my job. I enjoyed being able to meet the kids that I was actively helping.” 

Senior Service Day’s purpose is for students to realize the importance of volunteers to these nonprofit organizations and how much devoting just a few hours from one’s day can benefit a community. 

“Working for a nonprofit is extremely difficult,” Kulkarni said. “[Volunteering] made me realize how much work truly goes into saving animals and the impact [these organizations] can have on their lives.”

Overall, the class of 2024 had a productive senior service day and volunteers left their organizations feeling fulfilled, now wanting to help their community more often. The verdict: making a difference in one’s community creates a chain of positivity for everyone involved. 

“Lending a helping hand, however small it may seem, can impact several others in a positive way,” Melear said. “Even though it didn’t occur to me that I was directly helping out the parents of the children at the pre-school, cleaning an area where the kids spend many hours per day does have a profound effect on the parents they return to.”

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