LORAIN — It was a day to put down the books and pick up brooms, rakes and buckets.
It’s not often when a group of high school students are allowed to ditch school, but in this case Elyria Catholic High School was more than willing to not just look the other way, but to chaperone an out-of-school trip to local veteran Charlie Beres’ home on Ridgewood Avenue.
The elderly man, who is homebound and a client of the Neighborhood Alliance senior meals program, was in desperate need of help to clean up his yard, and 13 Elyria Catholic students were more than able-bodied enough to do the work.
So instead of shuffling from class to class Tuesday, grass was cut, weeds were pulled and an entire yard of trash and debris was cleaned before an eventual journey to a landfill.
“It needed some help,” said 17-year-old Riley St. Marie, referring to Beres’ yard. “But we were ready to work as soon as we got here. We knew we were going to get down and dirty.
“And, a little muddy,” Riley said as she observed her mud-caked work gloves.
Behind her, about four classmates were cleaning a small pond that likely once held koi fish and was one of several reminders of a time when the yard held happy memories.
Tuesday’s jaunt was the first go-round for the Neighborhood Alliance’s and Elyria Catholic’s new joint community service project called “Seniors 4 Seniors.”
“We have been trying to get Elyria Catholic involved in our community projects for a while, but I must give credit for this particular project to assistant Principal Mike Wisnor,” said Lori Magyay, the organization’s volunteer coordinator. “He knew the students could do so much in the community and was happy to be of service to Neighborhood Alliance.”
Seniors 4 Seniors will take place one day per month for the entire school year and eventually, as small groups are sent out monthly, every senior at Elyria Catholic will have participated in the program. To lead up to the outside work that will be done by upperclass students only, the school will also have students in lower grades partake in other volunteer opportunities — juniors providing Sunday dinner to residents of The Haven Center, sophomores collecting gifts during the holidays for homebound seniors and freshmen making welcome kits for Haven Center residents.
This is not the school’s first affiliation with community service, but usually the efforts are not as local. Each Spring Break, the school stages an alternative “vacation” to assist at locations torn apart by hurricanes and tornadoes.
“Each time we go somewhere, we are appreciated and accepted by the community, but they often wonder why their own students are not out helping them,” Wisnor said. “It got me thinking that we should be also helping out own community. We don’t have to go so far to serve.”