October 4, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

A partnership between the Webster County Cooperative Extension Service and the Webster County Schools will offer students in the high school a chance to help their community as they learn.

As the need for community service work is added to high school students' educational experiences, schools and communities will be looking for ways to bring the two together. This project does that and, if successful, could offer other schools and communities a working model.

The project had its beginnings when the county's 4-H program was compiling its four-year plan of work which involves not only Extension staff but representatives of the entire community, said Kris Tapp, Webster County 4-H agent.

The program goes beyond community service into service learning. The difference is that the students look at the community needs and club goals, then develop, implement and evaluate projects that are aimed at a common goal.

A fair at the end of the school year will showcase the club's projects.

Most of the work is done by the students in all clubs at the school with a teacher (coach) and a community volunteer to assist. But, Tapp noted, it is up to the students to do the work and make it successful.

Janet Farris, Webster County High School FCCLA advisor and High Schools That Work co-coordinator, said many schools are dealing with programs that encourage service learning such as tech prep and School-to-Work, and they have standards that need to be met. This project, called Project TEAM, would meet many of those standards.

Also, she said, there is a need in the county for volunteerism.

School officials have noticed that students often are not volunteering or taking on projects.

"We really want our students to share in and get good feelings about helping the community," Farris said.

Community service likely will be a graduation requirement sometime in the future, Farris said. Farris said at national meetings, school staff have been told it is coming. Plus, many college scholarships and honor societies weigh community service hours heavily in their decisions.

The partnership with Extension works well, Farris said.

Farris uses Extension a lot, she said, but many teachers do not know what all it has to offer. Being a small community, means it may take more creativity to find volunteer projects, Farris said.

Tapp said if the students will look first at what they want to accomplish, then define the project, the opportunities will be broad. An example would be helping elementary students increase their proficiency in arts and humanities. A project could be the Drama Club working with elementary schools to put on art fairs and plays, she said.

Farris said she thinks it would be great, if the Webster County plan became a model for other districts.

"I think once we get a working model and that is going to be successful, other people will see that because they are looking," she said.

Tapp said the key, though, for the plan to be successful in any community is for the community to be behind it.


Kris Tapp, (270) 639-9011; Janet Farris, (270) 639-5092