Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Catholic students celebrate by serving

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St. John’s Catholic Prep in Frederick took a break from classes Monday morning to roll up their sleeves and help community groups across Frederick County.

Students, teachers and staff from the private Catholic high school used the day to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, a national event.

Beginning on Sunday and lasting through Saturday, Catholic schools across the country observe the annual celebration with special Masses, community service activities, academic projects and trips to talk with elected officials.

At St. John’s, students boarded yellow school buses and fanned out to more than a dozen organizations, from The Salvation Army in Frederick to Saint Catherine’s Nursing Center in Emmitsburg. Students also pitched in at Tranquility Farms in Thurmont and Sunrise Retirement Home and The Jeanne Bussard Center in Frederick.

Catherine Hall, a freshman English teacher at the school, accompanied 10 students to Glade Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Walkersville, where they gave a presentation about Zanzibar, an archipelago in East Africa, to long-term care patients.

Hall said this was the first year that Saint John’s Prep has incorporated community service into Catholic Schools Week and has allowed the school community to put their faith into action.

Community service is nothing new to students at Saint John’s Catholic Prep, who are required to complete 80 hours of community service in order to graduate.

Austin Lepri, a freshman, said he has already completed 45 hours of this requirement by volunteering as a St. John’s summer camp counselor.

At Glade Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Monday, Austin said his group’s presentation was a good experience.

‘‘I know one day I’d want to be helped out this way,” Austin said. ‘‘It’s really fulfilling to help out others.”

In another wing of the building, a second group of St. John’s Catholic Prep students constructed a ‘‘Happy Valentine’s Day” bulletin board for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Matt Crum, a sophomore, said his group cut pink and red shapes and hearts for the bulletin board and spent time reading and playing a sing-along video with the men and women. Matt said he realized that the residents enjoyed having him and his classmates there.

‘‘Helping people is a lot more fun than you think,” he said.