"I think it's cool because it's something the whole school does together before Christmas. It's a good way to start the Christmas break," said freshman Jack Schneider.
For the last few years, students have taken the day before Christmas break and learned about ways to give back to others. They heard from different organizations like Michigan Blood and the American Cancer Society about ways students can help. And they had opportunities for hands-on learning making items to help others.
"It just makes me feel good and know I can help," said Jordan Clement, a freshman.
Junior Holly VanStee said she looks forward to service learning each year. "I like it. I like being able to give something back to others," she said.
Senior Braedon Halle said taking the time out of the regular classroom for this kind of project is valuable. "It's 100 percent worth it. Our community gives so much to the school so it's good that we can give back in some way."
Senior Izaak Eggebeen agreed. "It's definitely a day I look forward to every year. It's a great way to start the Christmas break and to be able to do something useful."
The day also included some rewards for the students and their efforts. In the afternoon, they were treated to a Christmas movie and lip synch contest from the teachers.
High school principal Tony Petersen said he appreciates all the work staff do to bring this opportunity to students. "It's an awesome day and an incredible opportunity to give back to others and be thankful for what we have. It's so nice to see happy kids and see how much they appreciate this opportunity."
Students started the day with a school-wide assembly from motivational spoken word artists called Kinetic Affect. Kirk Latimer and Gabriel Giron shared their stories of troublesome years and dealing with illness, drugs, depression, and suicide of friends.
Giron joined the military after high school, and shortly into his time in the service, was diagnosed with cancer. His journey took him through multiple surgeries and years of treatment to where he is cancer free today, but still lives with the realization he has a 65 percent chance of cancer coming back.
Latimer narrowly avoided lengthy prison terms after becoming a drug dealer in high school. His aggressions got him arrested when he was 16 years old, but it wasn't until his senior year in high school when five of his friends committed suicide that he knew he had to change. Latimer said he hated himself. As a drug dealer, he supplied drugs for all five of the suicide victims.
The two became spoken word artists and motivational speakers sharing their stories in hopes of preventing others from making their same mistakes. They encourage students to give back to others, follow their dreams, and live for today.