Buzzing with the activity of last minute preparations, visitors to Jenny Wilson’s Friday Harbor High School’s Community Service-Learning Projects class could feel the students excitement.
The achievements of each of the students, like Guadalupe Guerro, whose project was making bedrolls for homeless teens, makes the impossible seem probable.
“I was so proud,” Guerro said. “Knowing I made even one teen more comfortable and got plastic out of the landfills.”
The students are currently preparing to present their accomplishment from 5:30-7 p.m. on June 5, at the high school.
The required class, Wilson explained, is a chance for students to explore their passions and strengths by designing an activity with a community partner that addresses a need in the community. By creating and completing a meaningful project, it is hoped that students will leave a lasting legacy on the community, for the school and themselves. Below are just a few ways these students improved their community.
Heart for the homeless
Guerrero’s goal was to do something both for the environment and help homeless teens. Her solution was to make bedrolls out of plastic bags. It took 32 to volunteers and countless hours to make the rolls, which were then sent to New Horizons, a shelter in Seattle for homeless teens. New Horizons Director of Operations Katie Russel wrote to Guerro thanking her and letting her know how excited the youth were to receive the bedrolls.
William Leeming worked with Friends of the San Juans on the Great Island Clean-Up project for Earth Day. Besides participating in the clean-up and picking up litter, Leeming also distributed flyers and did his best to get the word out about the event. More than 1,000 pounds of trash was picked up during the clean-up, according to Leeming, much of which was plastic that had broken into tiny pieces over time.
“I was surprised more students didn’t participate in it,” Leeming said, adding that next year he would like to garner more involvement in Great Island Clean-up, in part by putting more information out in social media.
Bridger Bell and Dashia Ortega’s passion for poetry lead them to create a wall of poetry outside the high school’s library.
“I know a lot of students write poetry, but don’t share it with anyone,” Ortega said. The pair put a box out where people could submit their works anonymously if they choose.
“At first people were hesitant,” Bell said, “But once we put up a few poems, more and more people submitted them.”
Accessibility for all
Zach Chrichton, Kenny Hallock and Kevin Soto improved beach access at Jackson Beach by creating handicapped parking spots at the north end of the beach and adding an unloading zone near the gravel path leading to driftwood benches. Chrichton also studied the accessibility of beaches throughout the island and created the logo for “Accessibility for All, San Juan Island.”
This was the first time Chrichton worked in a group project, he said. He added that he enjoyed the experience and would do again.
Many community members turned out to help with this project, Chrichton said, beach walkers stopped and lent a hand while the students were working. Other locals donated materials, equipment and expertise. One of the key lessons the group learned, the trio agreed, was the importance of communication.
Disc golf course clean-up
Soma Andrews and Jaden Jones have played disc golf at Roche Harbor for years. The pair thought that cleaning the fairway and publicizing the course would make for a great project. Clearing brush and tidying up was phase one. Phase two was creating a brochure, complete with instructions on how to play the game.
Houses for dogs in need
Casy Gollen and Teagen Magnuson were concerned about dogs that were constantly being left outside, they said, so they designed and built five insulated doghouses. The insulation keeps the canines warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. The houses have already been given away to some very excited families, Gollen said.
Justin Ha and Mattew Vogel designed house-shaped wooden ornaments for the San Juan Home Trust to sell as a fundraiser.
The design, Ha said, resembles the trust’s Sunrise housing community. Vogel added the duo made 600 hundred of the tiny houses, all of which are now with the trust. The first sheet of 50 ornaments took two hours to complete, but by the end, the team had it down to just 15 minutes, Ha said.
Shelves for the animal sanctuary
Omar Guillen built shelves for the Island Haven Animal Sanctuary so that food and bedding or other supplies could be stored off the ground. This was his first time working in-depth with saws and other woodworking tools, he said.
“I usually work in landscaping,” he said, “but I really enjoyed the project and learning about construction.”
Improving Island Haven Sanctuary
Kinsey Hurley and Arly Sanabria Velazquez created weatherproof signs for the Island Haven Sanctuary as their contribution. The signs educate visitors about the work that Island Haven does, and the types of animals it cares for, including horses, pigs, llamas, alpacas, chickens and turkeys.
Southern resident killer whale documentary
Blake Budwill and Luke Erickson filmed a documentary about the Southern resident killer whales, which will be shown at the Friday Harbor Film Festival.
The pair interviewed orca experts like Ken Balcomb, founder and director of the Center for Whale Research, and Deborah Giles, science and research director of Wild Orca.
“We wanted to spread the word about how endangered these animals are,” Budwill said. One key point Erickson learned, he said, was learning how important the orcas are to the entire Puget Sound ecosystem and the livelihoods of locals. Losing these animals would mean a huge effect on the islands’ tourist-based economy, he said.
Advocating for orcas
Kyla Balcomb-Bartok and Clarissa Felix decided to harness their passion for orcas to create an educational outreach project for elementary students. The pair researched orcas first, and although they both knew a lot about the animals, the projects showed them what amazing creatures orcas are, Balcomb-Bartok said.
The children in the audience were excited to learn about the Southern residents and became quickly engaged in Felix and Balcomb-Bartok’s classroom presentation, Felix said, and they came up with creative — though not always logical — solutions. One of those ideas was building a wall around the west side of San Juan Island to protect the salmon and whales, Balcomb-Bartok said with a laugh.
Gardening at the Village at the Harbor
Already experienced in landscaping from living on a farm, Skyler Reynolds said he thought to help the assisted living facility, Village at the Harbor, with gardening sounded up his alley. He and his project partner Logan Sheppard spent hours planting and weeding all the flower beds. In helping the village, Reynolds was able to put his knowledge to good use, he said.
Sheppard, on the other hand, is now adept at gardening, he said, a handy skill to have.
Lime Kiln Cart
Aiken Durham-Guckian and Weston Swirtz exhumed the remnants of a lime kiln cart buried at Lime Kiln Park. The cart will be on display at the park, they said, along with information about the history, eventually available to the public to see and learn from. While the kiln was in operation, during the ‘20s and ‘30s, these horse-drawn metal carts were used to load limestone and carry it to the kiln. There are not many carts on the island, Swirtz noted, if there are, all that remains are a few scraps.
Last year, Payton Malloy was behind the scenes of the annual graduation slideshow. A longstanding tradition at Friday Harbor, this traditions includes photographic memories of the students’ high school years, including pictures of the graduates as babies. Malloy said she enjoyed organizing last year’s show so much that she decided to do it again this year as her community project, allowing her to focus and go more in-depth with the show than last year.
“Perfection takes time,” Malloy said with a smile.
With hopes of pursuing a career in the arts, Katie Place painted a mural outside of the high school gym for her project.
The wall needed painting, Place said, so she drew a mural integrating sports including tennis, baseball, football and soccer. She clocked in a total of 67 hours of work to complete the painting, and so far the feedback she has received has been positive.
“People have told me the wall looks a lot better,” She said, noting that a key lesson was time management. “I learned to use my time wisely, especially when the weather was nice.”
There are more students the Journal did not have a chance to speak with, like Zoe Calverley who created a body image workshop and Libby Scott who put together school supplies for students in Guatemala.
“It is hoped that students will leave a lasting legacy for the school, community and themselves,” Wilson said.