"Great kids doing great things."
It's a simple statement, but Michele Grandovic, director of the Service Learning Program at Hopewell Area High School, said it aptly sums up her students.
Senior Brian Zahn is one such student who is making a difference in his community through the program. Brian, 18, recently received a $750 Pittsburgh Cares Mini Grant that he plans to use for less-fortunate students at his school. He was one of four out of 80 applicants to be awarded the money.
Spurned by a statistic that one in eight high school students goes home hungry every weekend, Brian used a portion of the money to purchase pizza kits.
"I'm really excited. I think it's going to be really great to see the kids get to take these home and get a good meal over the weekend," he said. "It's nice to make a difference in the community."
Police Station Pizza in Ambridge gave Brian a discount on the pizza kits enabling him to purchase 140 kits he's dubbed Mangia Italiano.
Students gathered last Thursday to slice peppers and onions for toppings and to assemble the kits comprised of a pizza crust, sauce and cheese for distribution the next day.
Recipients were left to the discretion of administrators, who based their selections according to need.
In addition to the pizza kits, the grant also helped fund the purchase of several EarthBoxes, an innovative all-in-one growing system designed for education. Students have already planted lettuce and other cool weather crops in the boxes and will plant tomatoes and peppers in the spring.
Brian, president of the service learning program, said he has gleaned a lot from his involvement.
"It's really helped me with a lot of real-life skills, especially business and entrepreneurship," he said. "I also really like being able to help out the community."
Students in the program help various charitable organizations throughout the region including Meals on Wheels, the Caring Place and The Salvation Army.
"I love to see the kids get the satisfaction from this," Mrs. Grandovic said. "They organize and lead and I just step back. That's where the learning comes in."
Not to be outdone by her students, she was recently named one of 1,000 recipients across the country to be awarded a Whole Kids Foundation grant worth $2,000. Mrs. Grandovic said she plans to use the money toward the purchase and development of more EarthBoxes, citing their success among the students.education - neigh_west
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org