Susan Parrish
The La Grande Observer

Eighteen students from La Grande High School spread bark mulch on the strip between the railroad tracks and Island Avenue Friday afternoon.

The student work crew was part of the school’s third annual senior day of service. All 179 seniors participated in a total of 10 projects, including reading to students at the three elementary schools, playing board games with senior citizens at
assisted living facilities and cleaning up the grounds at Morgan Lake Park.

Brett Baxter, principal at La Grande High School, said the community service activity tradition started through a conversation with a couple of students about how their community has supported them, and how it would be good to give back.

“It was something I felt was really important,” he said.

Baxter said in the previous two years, students who interacted with residents at retirement facilities enjoyed the experience so much that “the kids walk away saying, ‘That was the coolest thing ever! When can we do it again?’”

At the service project along Island Avenue, the students’ task was to spread mulch the City of La Grande workers had dumped along the strip. When a city truck loaded with rakes and pitchforks pulled up, the LHS seniors grabbed tools and got to work.

“It’s not supposed to be more than eight inches deep,” instructed Sandy Nelson, a substitute teacher’s aide who had volunteered to supervise the students.

Senior Daisela Easterday pulled on white gardening gloves and talked about why she wanted to help.

“We ask a lot from our community to donate to our sports. Without everyone donating stuff, our programs would suck,” she said.

Chris Buhrman, who works for the City of La Grande, pulled up in a Parks and Recreation pickup to check on the students’ progress.

“It sure helps the city. The amount of manpower they do in one day takes us a month,” Buhrman said. He added that volunteerism “builds character.”

See complete story in Monday's Observer