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Making an impact: Superior High School expands volunteer hours

Dozens of high school students spent time volunteering in the community Wednesday.

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Superior High School freshmen Kellan Bartell, left, and Kayin Prout take Christmas lights off trees along Tower Avenue Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — They could have slept in. Instead, dozens of Superior High School students fanned out into the community Wednesday, March 23, to take down Christmas decorations, spend time with elementary school students, shovel snow and play peekaboo.

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Superior High School freshman Mensen Baumann takes Christmas lights off a tree along Tower Avenue Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Only juniors attended school at SHS Wednesday. They spent the day taking the ACT test. Students in other grades got the day off, and many of them took the opportunity to get in their required community service hours for the year.

As part of the district’s retooled senior project program, students at all grade levels must spend time working in the community. This year, freshmen and sophomores are required to complete five hours of community service, juniors are required to complete 10 hours and seniors are required to complete 15 hours.

“We are really excited to get all of our students in grades 9-12 out into the community, building connections and showing them that they can make a difference and have an impact,” said senior project coordinator Caitlin Knoll. “We hope that students are able to improve their community, both within the school and outside it.”

It was the second community service project of the year for freshman Ian Schoeder. He spent five hours ringing bells for the Salvation Army of Superior in December. Wednesday, he was one of 18 students who volunteered to help take down Christmas lights along Tower Avenue. It took them less than an hour to pull lights from 95 trees.

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“It’s a better way to spend the day than sleeping in,” Schoeder said. “I feel like it’s a good learning experience that gives people the skills you’re going to need when you get older.”

And, he said, “I just like helping people out.”

Forming connections

At the Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior’s South End neighborhood, there were nearly as many jobs to do as there were students to do them.

Sophomore Nick Zauhar shredded paperwork, while freshmen Charlee Anderson and Gavin Roush cleared ice and snow outside. In the kitchen, freshman Nevaeh Malone stirred up cookie dough and classmate Nikole Deterling played peekaboo with Abra Lake, 2, and her brother Axel, 3.

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Superior High School freshman Nikole Deterling plays peekaboo with children at a Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Thirteen SHS students spent the day volunteering at the nonprofit, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“I love children,” Deterling said.

A total of 13 students spent five hours volunteering at the shelter, leaving clean spaces in their wake.

“I hope they’re gonna want to come back here for their 11th and 12th grade volunteering hours when they learn more about Harbor House and they know this is a resource that’s needed,” said senior Lily Higginbotham.

Higginbotham chose to volunteer at Harbor House, a ministry of Faith United Methodist Church, for her senior project. She learned to answer phones, run background checks and connect people with resources. Instead of the required 20 hours, she has spent 62 (and counting) at the shelter. It has even changed her career goals. Where once she planned to become an electrician, she now plans to be a social worker.

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“It’s funny because I didn’t plan on going to college, and now I’m like, well, I have to,” Higginbotham said.

Case manager Krystal Brandstatter said there are always volunteer opportunities at Harbor House, from gardening and cleaning to answering phones.

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Left to right, Abra Lake, 2, her brother Axel, 3, and Superior High School freshman Nikole Deterling play peekaboo at a Harbor House Crisis Shelter on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Deterling was among 13 high school students who spent several hours volunteering at the shelter.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“That’s what’s nice about it. If they want to play with kids, we usually have kids to hang out with and do activities with. In the winter, I put them to work shoveling or whatever. We can do gardening when it’s nice out. We do baking, we do garage work … “ Brandstatter said.

She appreciated the deluge of help Wednesday.

“It’s awesome just having them come out and help us,” said the case manager, who has been working at Harbor House for 13 years.

As they left, Higginbotham collected contact information from students who were interested in volunteering again.

SMART Recovery focuses on science and self-empowerment, not faith.

Small time, big impact

In addition to teaming up with the city crew and Harbor House, Knoll set up additional service opportunities for students Wednesday at Northern Lights Elementary School and the Senior Center.

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“As we move into next school year, I am hoping to increase our partnership with local businesses and organizations to create meaningful service opportunities for students,” she said.

Wednesday’s series of opportunities was, she said, a small-scale test of what is possible in years to come.

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Superior High School freshman Nevaeh Malone stirs up a batch of cookie dough at the Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior's South End neighborhood on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“We have over 1,300 students here at SHS, and I want us to make an impact,” Knoll said. “That is a lot of good we can do.”

It can also leave an impression on students.

“We know and believe that the more connected our students are to their community, both within the school and outside it, the more successful they will be during their time at SHS and once they graduate and begin their adult lives whether that be through a college experience or entering a career right after graduation,” Knoll said.

Organizations with service project ideas for students can email caitlin.knoll@superior.k12.wi.us . Knoll said they are also in need of volunteers to watch seniors give their final presentations.

Former executive director Barb Certa-Werner: 'We went from providing shelter to really changing lives through the services provided.'

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Superior High School students return to Center City Park in Superior after removing Christmas lights from 95 trees along Tower Avenue on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Superior High School freshmen Nathen Kurosky, left, and Mensen Baumann take Christmas lights off trees along Tower Avenue on Wednesday, March 23, 2022. A group of 18 SHS students volunteered to help take lights off 95 trees.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Superior High School freshmen Jonathan Hand, left, and Ian Schoeder pull Christmas lights off trees along Tower Avenue on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Superior High School freshman Charlee Anderson shovels snow off the driveway behind the Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior's South End neighborhood on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Gavin Roush, a freshman at Superior High School, chips ice off the sidewalk at a Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior's South End neighborhood on Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Axel Lake, 3, at left, climbs out of a cupboard after being found by Nikole Deterling on Wednesday, March 23, 2022 at the Harbor House Crisis Shelter in Superior's South End neighborhood.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
The newly renovated building will provide permanent supportive housing to five homeless families.

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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The event will include kids' games, live music and more.