Community Service Learning for Newport and Jackson County School Districts

Students from Tuckerman and Newport High Schools recently earned a few of the 75 community service hours required for graduation by Arkansas Act 237, also known as Arkansas LEARNS. With hairnets, plastic gloves, and the spirit of cooperation, they demonstrated that teenagers can make a difference.

Jon Bradley, Newport School District Superintendent: "This is an event for our community. It's working with a grant from Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield to pack meals that are distributed throughout the county to a lot of different shelters, different entities, food pantries, things like that. It's something that we started last spring, and we wanted to be able to do it again. And when they contacted us, we said we would love to do that. And this year, our goal is to do more than we did last year. I think last year we did a little over 31,000 meals and this year we want to do over 50. So we got about 3 hours to get about 50,000 meals packed."

Caeley Gist, a junior at Tuckerman High School, explained what she gained from the day.

Gist: "This is helping me, one, just get community service hours for everything that we need, but also helping me reach others in my community who are in need and helping me get that sense of that feeling that you get whenever you get to help others, and you get to see others succeed."

Alex Sheredy, a Newport High School senior, explained why the community service project is important to him.

Sheredy: "Being able to do this in Newport is just amazing because we're at a 20% food insecurity rate in Jackson County. And knowing that I'm going to be able to do this and benefit people somehow, it's really one of the best feelings. I mean, within 30 miles of everybody, you probably have a nursing home or something. That's where I started out with community service when I was younger. So, just anything like that, it's easy to get into it. And really, doing stuff like this kind of brings a smile on other people's faces, and that kind of makes you happy."

Bradley: "Well, I mean, there are always going to be opportunities for community service events. And you know, that's our job as a school with this requirement is to try to figure out ways to get our kids involved. And it doesn't just have to come through us. I mean, we can document things that our kids do. And I think the state's willing to work on that. The biggest thing about it is the community service learning. Part of it is understanding what it is to give back, and the the things that you get out of the events that you do, and the acts of community service. And so that's our job as a school, to try to create as many of those opportunities as possible. We know from talking to Secretary Oliva, the state's going to work with us when we've got kids that, you know, in times when they may need some help in those areas. But our job is to try to figure out ways to do that, whether it's, you know, just their school or even on the individual opportunities."

To learn more about the community service learning requirements, read Commissioner's Memo COM-24-021: Community Service Requirement for Graduation Guidance.