HULL — For years, Jonathan Bloch has been the Drowned Hogs’ top fund-raiser for Wellspring, bringing in thousands of dollars to the nonprofit social service agency in its annual dash-into-the-frigid-ocean-for-cash event — and he’s still not old enough to vote, buy alcohol, or rent a car.
“He’s been raising money for us since he was little; he’s a dedicated, dedicated young philanthropist,” said grateful Wellspring spokeswoman Monica McKinney.
Bloch, a 17-year-old who lives in Hull and is a junior at Noble and Greenough School in Dedham, is not the only young person making an impact beyond his years. He’s one of many young volunteers in the south suburbs who are dedicating time and energy to community service.
In Weymouth, 16-year-old Matthew Bryer devotes hours each week on Safe Soldier, which sends care packages to military men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq. He started the organization when he was in sixth grade and his older brother was serving in the Army in Iraq.
“He said toiletries were pretty hard to come by, and that’s been our main goal – toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, hand sanitizer,” Bryer said. He estimates he’s sent more than 150 boxes overseas, filled with close to 10,000 items — and his family’s front hall is filled with more waiting to be shipped.
”At first it was to help my brother, but then I saw the difference it was making when I got letters and thank-you notes. It was a good feeling to know you were making a difference,” he said.
Weymouth High School, where Bryer is a junior, wants all of its students to experience that satisfaction, says associate principal Peter Haviland. The school requires 10 hours of community service each academic year, and has partnered with the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation to “celebrate volunteerism” as more than an obligation, Haviland said.
As part of the effort, the high school’s 2,003 students delivered more than a ton of food to the Weymouth Food Pantry in December and had recorded 26,011 volunteer hours as of mid-February, Haviland said. And the school and the Patriots recognized Bryer and 40 other Weymouth High students for their outstanding volunteerism in a December pep rally attended by former Patriot Kevin Faulk and some of the football team’s cheerleaders.
While most high schools encourage students to volunteer, a relatively small number of districts make it a requirement. Those schools include Avon, Dedham, Milton, Pembroke, Randolph, Rockland, Scituate, Silver Lake Regional, South Shore Charter Public School in Norwell, and Weymouth.
At South Shore Charter, the requirement starts in kindergarten, where students are asked to participate in five acts of community service, according to executive director Alicia Savage. By the time they’re seniors, students are required to do 40 hours of community service each year, she said.
“We don’t check [the hours]; it’s completely on the honor system,” Savage said. “But usually we find out they’ve done more than required. Community service is an integral part of our school culture.”
Sixteen-year-old Jessica Guerrier, a junior at the charter school who lives in Whitman, has volunteered at Pine Street Inn in Boston and at a nursing home in Dedham. But she said most of her volunteer work is with young children, both in the elementary grades of South Shore Charter and at her church, the Haitian Assembly of God in Brockton. She also helps take care of a youngster with autism, an experience that has made her want to study occupational therapy as a career, she said.
Randolph High School requires students to give at least 60 hours of community service over their four years, and new football coach Keith Ford is helping both his team and the cheerleaders find meaningful ways to reach that goal. Starting this month, students will teach technology to seniors citizens at the local senior center or library, lead free football clinics for local youth, and take part in a fitness forum for Randolph elementary school students.
Seventeen-year-old Lanajah Simon, a sophomore cheerleader at Randolph High who hopes to become a psychologist, said she’s getting involved in the projects because she wants to give back to the community. “We’re going to show that we’re not just taking and taking,” she said.
Sixteen-year-old Brianna Lopes, a junior and cheerleader, said she’s excited about being a role model for younger students. Football players Brent White, a sophomore, and Emmanuel Neal, a junior, also said they want to be role models and to give back to their community and, as Neal said, “let them know that we care about them as much as they care about us.”Continued...