NORTH BENNINGTON -- A group of Mount Anthony Union Middle School students have been painting the town -- and also picking up trash, helping Meals on Wheels, weeding garden beds and doing other projects though a week-long community service program.
On Wednesday, the group of four students volunteered for the Better Bennington Corp. painting the alleyway between Carmody’s and Star Electric on Main Street.
"There was a lot of graffiti. What we did was we painted over it with primer and then when we went through it we were looking at all the places we (painted primer), and we found out there was a lot of places that needed painting," said Ashley Carey, who will enter seventh grade in the fall. "Now it looks pretty good."
Ashley and her sixth grade classmate at North Bennington Graded School, Alexandra Thomson, said they picked the activism program from a long list of MOSAIC summer options the middle school offers because they enjoy the activities and the feeling that come from helping others.
"It feels really good to do community service and help out your community," Alexandra said.
Connor Harrington, who is entering eighth grade, saw the program as a way to improve the reputation of Bennington’s youth and the town in general.
"I wanted to help out our awesome town and try to clean it up. There’s lots of punks and hoodlums who love to ruin it ... but I wanted to make this town better," Connor said.
On Tuesday, the group visited Meals on Wheels and decorated cookies for World War II veterans, which Connor said was one of his favorite parts of the program so far.
"It was fun and they did so much for us because, if they weren’t there to help end the war, we’d probably still be in World War II right now," he said.
Also at Meals on Wheels the students made birthday cards for everyone Meals on Wheels serves who is turning a year older in the coming weeks. Making the cards was the highlight for Brittany Belville, who is entering seventh grade in the fall.
"Whoever gets that birthday card, if they don’t get anything else they’re going to feel like, ‘oh, somebody actually cares about me.’ Even though we don’t know each other," Brittany said.
Although she had heard of the program, Tuesday’s visit was Brittany’s first to Meals on Wheels. After learning more about what Meals on Wheels does, Brittany said she was thankful there are groups like that in the area. "I think it’s a really good thing because (some people) don’t get a meal every day and it makes them have a meal that gives them nutrition."
The summer program sponsored by Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union’s 21st Century grant has been very rewarding to Brittany, who also believes community service should be incorporated more in the school curriculum because some youth her age may not understand the benefits of helping others. "They should do more things in school to teach kids it’s not all about you, it’s about other people that don’t get anything," she said.
Students have also volunteered at Lake Paran where they sanded and painted picnic tables. On Thursday the group spent more than an hour in the hot summer sun pulling weeds and planting hostas at North Bennington Graded School. After working up a sweat, the students and instructor Dylan Kenney picked up trash along the road as they walked to Lake Paran for a swim. On Friday, the group will help set up for an outdoor event being hosted at Bennington Project Independence.
Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi