Spirit of helping others pervades senior class


POSTED: Wednesday, March 18, 2009

During this economic crisis, volunteers are more valuable than ever. Le Jardin seniors are doing their part all over the island, working in nonprofit organizations that represent a wide variety of interests.

This year the most popular places to volunteer with are Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii and Therapeutic Horsemanship.

Through BEACH seniors sort marine debris and participate in beach cleanups. Senior Dinah West says that the experience has “;changed my perspective on litter because there was so much of it.”;

Many seniors this year are volunteering at Therapeutic Horsemanship in Waimanalo. Senior Nikki Tomchak says, “;I bond with kids and see how animals can really impact their lives.”;

Another volunteer, senior Brittany Fuller, says that she feels “;the work does contribute to the community because it helps children with special needs.”;

Senior James McMahan volunteers with the police department on police ride-alongs. He mentions that he has gained even more respect for police officers through the experience.

Three seniors volunteer at the Kailua Public Library, where they help organize and shelve books. Senior Liz Song jokes that she now knows her way around even the most obscure corners of the library.

Many of the organizations have an environmental focus. For example, senior Robert Shaunessy works for the Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club. He and other Le Jardin volunteers help to clear hiking trails so that the public can enjoy them.

On weekends at Kawainui Marsh, senior Justin Altman works to cut down invasive species and plant native ones. Altman says he has “;learned about the dangerous plant life in Hawaii and the ecosystem.”;

Other environmentally focused organizations include the Outdoor Circle and BEACH. Volunteer Mackenzie Miller says that helping the environment “;really has a direct positive impact on the Windward community.”;

Some seniors have found organizations that correspond to their professional goals. Senior Sophie Luu, who volunteers at Castle Medical Center, plans to enter the medical field. She finds Castle to be a great opportunity to familiarize herself with the hospital setting. “;It's never boring,”; she says.

Along with the 30 hours of off-campus service, students are asked to spend five hours working on campus. Many earn their on-campus hours through the class-sponsored blood drive. This year's blood drive in February was so successful that it will return in May.

Through their volunteer work, Le Jardin students have learned the importance of community involvement.