KPMS student Dylan Shipman discovered a rare brittle sea star on a beach walk with specialists from Harbor WildWatch, which awarded him the 2018 Volunteer of the Year for his dedication and commitment. Photo: Carly Vestor, Harbor WildWatch

A Key Peninsula Middle School community service program new this school year offers students a chance to learn how they can make a difference in their community and earn credit for an end-of-year reward.

Jeri Goebel, KPMS principal, commended the school site council for developing this unique program, and for giving KPMS students the power to be creative in deciding how they can make a positive contribution.

First, students must develop a personal plan that is filed with their Cougar Academy (homeroom) teacher for approval. In the current school year approximately 30 percent of KPMS students accepted the challenge. Once approved, their project is started under the supervision of an adult, timesheets are kept, and their project must be completed before the end of April. The supervising adult completes an evaluation form and the student writes a report about their personal reflections on the experience. Students completing their volunteer plan receive a certificate and are qualified to attend the annual end-of-year reward field trip to Wild Waves.

Some students opt to focus on in-school activities that promote school pride and school spirit. Others give their time to nonprofit organizations—one such beneficiary is Food Backpacks 4 Kids. KPMS students help fill the backpacks that are distributed throughout the school district.

Some students return to their former elementary schools. Both Evergreen and Minter Creek Elementary schools have students returning to help in classrooms and after-hours programs. At Minter Creek, Zoe Libner and Kendall Powers are classroom helpers. 

“It is really fun to experience something that I would not have had the opportunity to

do if I didn’t volunteer,” Zoe said. “To me, helping people got me to be more instructive, and I see that I can make a difference.”

Betty McCord, Evergreen office manager, said there are about eight KPMS students that help with afterschool programs. One of the returning students is sixth-grader Dylan Shipman, who shows up every day to help with parent pick-up.

Dylan’s main volunteer activity is with Harbor WildWatch. In January he received the HWW Volunteer of the Year award. As a Junior Naturalist he works at public events—usually by the touch tanks or using a clicker to keep count of visitors. He said they call him the “Pro-Clicker.” 

“I have 49.5 volunteer hours recorded for Dylan! Dylan takes the Harbor WildWatch motto ‘Learn—have fun,’ beyond the beach,” wrote Stena Troyer, HWW science specialist, in an email to KP News. “After an exciting and rare find of a Humboldt squid carcass during a beach walk at Sunrise Beach Park (in Gig Harbor), Dylan took the time to research and then write a multiple page report detailing the life history and adaptations of this unique creature. I have yet to meet another student who writes me creature reports just for fun.”

Eighth-grader Alli Kimball began playing softball while she attended Vaughn Elementary. Her community service is as a Little League pitching coach. She is at Volunteer Park two times a week during the season teaching girls how to pitch. She also plays on the Snohomish Elite Diamonds, a statewide select team. 

“I could never have gone as far as I have without the people who helped me,” Alli said about her experience. “I want to help others and I like knowing I’m making a difference.”

Both Dylan and Alli have plans for higher education and agreed that community service “looks good on a college application.”

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