By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Sydney Roberts, a 14-year-old freshman, and Mercedes Harris, a 16-year-old sophomore, were presented with the awards at Monday night's Port Angeles School Board meeting by AmeriCorps volunteers Jacob Salzman and Jen Jacques, who oversaw the Youth United Letter in Service Program.
Sydney turned in 156 hours by volunteering with the Clallam County YMCA, the Key Club, the Port Angeles Food Bank, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church and Crestwood Convalescent Center.
Mercedes documented 179 hours at Camp Fire USA and Hamilton Elementary School, the in-school service club DECA and the Port Angeles High Orchestra.
“It's a family thing,” Mercedes said of her award, noting that her mother, Carrie Walls, president of the PTO at Hamilton, taught her to serve.
Scott Brandon, resource development manager for United Way of Clallam County, said he expects a larger group to earn letters in 2014 because the 2013 award opportunity was announced late in the year.
“There were several others who turned in hours, but [Mercedes and Sydney] were the only two who reached the required hours,” Brandon said.
There also were hours that were not documented or didn't reach the standard required for the letter, he said.
The high school partnered with the United Way, YMCA, North Olympic AmeriCorps, the Port Angeles High School Key Club and Olympic Kiwanis Club to revive a defunct program awarding varsity letters for community service.
There are hopes to extend the program to all Clallam schools in coming years.
The service letter was awarded to 16 students in 2010 and 2011 under a program organized by AmeriCorps members at Port Angeles High, and the new program began counting hours in February.
The 2014 award will be granted to students who can document 145 hours from May 1, 2013, through April 30, 2014.
“That includes summer hours and eighth-graders who will be in the ninth grade next year,” Brandon said.
At Port Angeles High, there are five ways students can earn a varsity letter — in academics, athletics, music, drama and the community service award.
To learn more about the Youth United Letter in Service Program, visit www.unitedwayclallam.org.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.