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Ravenna students skip school to serve

Ravenna High students volunteer throughout the community

By DIANE SMITH Staff Writer Published: May 13, 2017 4:00 AM
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Students at Ravenna High school "played hooky" on Friday, spending the day at more than 40 community service sites instead of their classrooms.

Students volunteered throughout the Ravenna area, including the Portage Metropolitan Housing Authority, the Community Action Council's youth center, Coleman Adult Day Services and a house being built by Habitat for Humanity. Those who didn't obtain permission slips from their parents were hard at work at the school, building benches for the "outdoor classroom," cleaning up at the stadium and painting murals to be displayed in the community room at the high school. The students also did projects at other Ravenna schools. Reading to kindergarteners turned out to be another popular choice.

Teacher Lenora Gunnoe, who teaches the high school's Service Learning class, along with Matthew Wunderle, a government teacher and the school's boys soccer coach, directed Gunnoe's students to organize the event, having them touch base with various community groups. When students learned that Habitat for Humanity was participating in a national "Women Build Week," they arranged to send an all-girl crew to the house being constructed on Beecher Avenue, and that ended up being one of the first volunteer sites to fill up.

Scott Craven, construction manager for Habitat, said the house broke ground in October and is nearly complete. Students from Maplewood Career Center did the framing, cabinet work and electricity for the house. The 10 girls from Ravenna High School, along with teachers Lisa Crislip and Ellen Baggett, were among 125 people, mostly women, who had agreed to help during the annual Women Build Week, which ends today.

The students were busy sanding, painting, laying flooring and picking up debris around the house, which will become the home of Tom and Sarah Adams and their four children. Craven said the four-bedroom house will be 1,750 feet, larger than a typical Habitat house, in accordance with city codes, and also will include the city-required garage and paved driveway. The family is expected to move into the house this summer.

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Students said they signed up because the day was "not at all" a typical day at school, allowing them to work with their hands doing painting and building.

"I thought it would be good to build something that makes someone have a better life," said sophomore Rayna Brantner as she sanded a wall in the house's future laundry room.

At Coleman Adult Day Services, students led seniors through a "carnival" offering them the chance to play games and win prizes. Allyson Werman, a sophomore, said she'd already visited the center as part of Maplewood's pre-professional academy and learned that it was a "very happy environment." Her classmate, Tovah Cain, said she enjoys working with seniors, and her great-grandfather, Donald Sykes, was a client at the senior center before he died.

Students led the seniors through the carnival games, while others ran the games and administered temporary tattoos. They cheerfully let one senior help herself to a second prize for a grandchild.

"Seeing their faces light up, it's so adorable," Allyson said.

At the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce, students cleaned up debris at various Main Street businesses, asking those businesses to display posters plugging the upcoming Queen of Hearts drawings in Ravenna on June 18 and July 16, which the chamber is sponsoring.

Sophomore Tony Suto won a "selfie contest" by having store employees pose with him in photos, and said he was impressed that nobody turned down his request to display a poster.

"They went out and got to know the community," said Ryan Kuchenbecker, executive director of the Ravenna Area Chamber of Commerce, said of the students. "They did a great job."

Principal Beth Coleman said the school is already planning activities for next year, and Gunnoe said she hopes her students will make the event happen again.

"We try to make it as student-driven as possible," she said. "We would love to see it be ongoing."

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