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Lending a helping hand

INDEPENDENCE -- Henry Hill Elementary School's winter carnival is perhaps the single most popular event for the campus' families and students.

Henry Hill Elementary fifth-graders Vianney Rodriguez, left, and Daisy Hernandez work with WOU student Rachel Crawford, center, on posters and ticket cans Friday for Henry Hill's upcoming winter carnival in Independence.

Photo by Pete Strong

Henry Hill Elementary fifth-graders Vianney Rodriguez, left, and Daisy Hernandez work with WOU student Rachel Crawford, center, on posters and ticket cans Friday for Henry Hill's upcoming winter carnival in Independence.

January 30, 2013

INDEPENDENCE -- Henry Hill Elementary School's winter carnival is perhaps the single most popular event for the campus' families and students.

As such, there's no shortage of chores to undertake leading up to the event on Feb. 22 -- counting and sorting prizes, dividing raffle tickets, making signs and touching up carnival game equipment that has seen better days.

Work goes faster with more bodies. Last week, Henry Hill staff and children had plenty of them via a group of Western Oregon University students.

More than a dozen volunteers worked side-by-side with their younger peers as part of a community service project in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"We would have been doing all of this work for most of a weekend otherwise," said Nancy Albritton, Henry Hill librarian. "It will save us 35 to 40 hours.

"Our carnival brings in about 500 people, it's a real family affair," Albritton continued. "This is a big help."

WOU coordinates a local service activity tied to MLK Day annually. Shondra Russell, a WOU employee and project coordinator this year, said the university usually conducts efforts such as clothing or food drives.

"We wanted something that was a little more interactive this time," Russell said. "This lets them see firsthand the difference they'll make."

Any excuse to have older students working alongside elementary counterparts is a good one, said Jose Hernandez, a Henry Hill instructional assistant and carnival coordinator.

"We like the role-model behavior they're seeing from the college students in an elementary school setting," Hernandez said.

As they bundled raffle tickets with WOU student David Buck, fifth-graders Diego Cisneros and Damian Negrete lectured the undergraduate on their classroom science experiment, which involved eggs soaked in vinegar.

"The egg represents teeth," Cisneros said. "We let it sit in vinegar for a couple of days."

"What do you think it's going to look like?" Buck asked.

"All dirty and gross," Negrete said.

Maria Vargas, a WOU sophomore, helped repaint aging carnival booths and displays. Vargas said she's tried to make community service more of a focus in her sorority and WOU's Multicultural Student Union, of which she's a member. She volunteers regularly at Central High School and Colonia Amistad in Independence.

"It's about serving others and creating a reaction," she said. "You help somebody, and then they'll help somebody else."

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