Helias Catholic High School is putting an emphasis on forging connections between the community and its students this year.
To that end, Helias hosted a service fair Wednesday with 21 local organizations to allow its students to explore different opportunities to serve. All students must obtain 50 hours of community service to graduate, but many far exceed that number. Last year, the student body logged 8,400 hours of community service.
Students could visit organizations like Catholic Charities, United Way, Capital City Court Appointed Special Advocates and JC Room at the Inn. They could also pick up items along the way, like sunglasses, shirts and pens, and they could stop by the Freedom Service Dog Teams booth, where they were encouraged to pet a furry gray dog named Scruffy.
"A lot of them are connected through United Way or Catholic Charities, so we made a lot of those connections through those two larger umbrella organizations, and then a few of them we just reached out to because we had a parent suggest them or we had someone bring their name to us, and we reached out to them," Helias Service Coordinator William Schatte said.
Junior Kearra Steinlage said she'd visited the Big Brothers Big Sisters booth and the Central Missouri Foster Care and Adoption Association booth.
"I really want a summer service activity, so I thought it'd be really cool to kind of get a little taste of what's there," she said.
Steinlage is also involved in Life Runners and Student Council, where she earns service hours during the year.
"I'm trying to strive for around 500 service hours. Right now I'm about 200, so I'm trying to think of a good summer program that I could go to, because I also have two jobs after school, so it's kind of hard to do stuff," she said.
"I just started off helping my mom in her classroom and coaching volleyball, but then I went on mission trips through the school and that was so much fun. At that point I didn't even need the hours, but I just wanted to try something new," she added.
Sophomore Zoe Cheng said she had visited several booths, and was most interested in those that offered a chance to help people, like Special Olympics.
She was also excited about the Jefferson City Boys & Girls Club, which she said provides children a chance to feel included and a place to go.
She hopes to work in a career someday that helps people, too.
The students came in 30-minute shifts, and those who made four meaningful connections could turn in their stamped sheet for a chance at a $10 gift card.
"And then hopefully they'll find an organization that sparks their interest and they can engage with," Schatte said.
CORRECTION: This article was edited at 8:21 a.m. Oct. 20, 2022, to correct the spelling of Zoe Cheng's last name.