Diana Blanco liked the result when she took a break Tuesday from toiling with more than 100 students to clean up the grounds of Mark Twain Elementary in Federal Way.
“It feels nice to help the school look better,” said Blanco, 16, a junior at Federal Way High School. “It motivates me to be part of these things more often.”
On a vacation day, students volunteered Tuesday to tear out blackberry bushes, rake leaves and shovel rocks at Mark Twain.
They were among more than 300 volunteers – nearly all of them high school students – who labored at three Federal Way-area schools Tuesday for a project called “One Day Federal Way.”
While school was out for mid-winter break, these students were learning the value of volunteering.
Thirty high school sophomores and juniors that make up the Advancing Leadership Youth program, sponsored by the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, organized the four-hour volunteer blitz.
Eugene Lee, 16, said planning the event was difficult, but it turned out better than he expected.
Students worked alongside students from rival Federal Way high schools whom they wouldn’t have met otherwise. Lee hopes the program – which is planned to become an annual event – will inspire people to volunteer regularly.
“It’s fun work,” said Lee, a junior at Todd Beamer High School and part of Advancing Leadership Youth. “It feels good when it’s done.”
Students also cleared out dead plants and other debris from courtyards at Totem Middle School, said Teri Hickel, executive director of Advancing Leadership Youth, which is co-sponsored by Federal Way Public Schools.
At Star Lake Elementary, volunteers painted interior hallway walls and cleaned up the grounds. Totem and Star Lake schools in Kent are close to Mark Twain Elementary at 2450 S. Star Lake Road. All three are part of the Federal Way school district.
At Mark Twain, dozens of youths cleared blackberry bushes at the driveway to the school. They also shoveled rocks into wheelbarrows and filled in drains.
Several Federal Way leaders – including Mayor Skip Priest and schools Superintendent Rob Neu – were at Mark Twain and praised the students for volunteering.
Because of budget constraints, most of the work wouldn’t get done otherwise, said Federal Way School Board President Tony Moore.
Moore said it was inspirational to see the students give back to the community. “When a child’s school looks good,” Moore said, “they take pride in it.”
Alexa Osorio, 15, a freshman at Decatur High School, kept warm in shorts while shoveling the remnants of the blackberry bushes. She said she volunteered “because I like helping people out.”
Jaclyn Detzler took a break eating an ice cream bar.
“It was fun to be doing this and to help,” said Detzler, 17, a junior at Federal Way High School. “It’s a big improvement.”
Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647