Port Angeles High School awards varsity letter for service
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Kelley Mayer, left, and Carly La, both seniors at Port Angeles High School, are previous recipients of a varsity letter for volunteer work. -- Photo by Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles High School soon will recognize student volunteers with their own varsity letter.

The high school is working with the Clallam County YMCA, North Olympic AmeriCorps, the Port Angeles High School Key Club and the Olympic Kiwanis Club to revive a once-successful program awarding varsity letters for community service, said Jody Moss, executive director of the United Way of Clallam County.

Roughrider students learned of the award at a recent Martin Luther King Jr. assembly as part of a theme of public service.

“We’re laying the groundwork for having service to the community as part of their norm,” Moss said.

She said the Port Angeles award is a pilot program that may expand to other Clallam County schools next year.

“All of the superintendents I have spoken to seem very interested.”

The service letter was previously awarded to 12 students in 2010 and 14 students in 2011 under a program organized by several AmeriCorps members at Port Angeles High School.

Then Clallam AmeriCorps Executive Director Jacques Livingston, and members Blake Hatling and Michael Carman — now a Peninsula Daily News golf columnist and news clerk — developed the first public service letter program at the high school, known as the North Olympic Youth Corps.

The Youth Corps was implemented by AmeriCorps Vista member Georgina Borte and Taylor Schraudner.

When the group completed their service, there was no one left to take over the program, Moss said.

A new consortium was put together to create an award program that would last, she said.

Many students likely already have a large number of hours of volunteer service even without prior knowledge of the volunteer award’s reintroduction.

This year the award will be granted to any student who can document 145 or more volunteer hours from March 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, Moss said.

Typically those hours must be done from April 1 through March 31, but students will be given extra time to complete and document their hours because of the late notice, she said.

At least 50 hours must be served outside of school, and students must have some in-school hours, according to the lettering guidelines.

Two students who earned the 2011 awards are currently seniors at Port Angeles High School — Carly La, 17, and Kelley Mayer, 16, — and each has earned several different letter awards at the school.

La and Mayer have each earned athletic and academic letters in addition to their service awards, which they earned through service hours they did through the Key Club, a high school service club.

Having the service letter helps with college applications, La said.

Both students are hoping for college acceptance letters in March.

La earned an interview at Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. and both have applied to the University of Washington, but there is a greater value to volunteering, and said they intend to continue volunteering in college, and in service clubs after leaving school, they said.

“It’s almost ingrained into our lives. It’s an everyday thing,” Mayer said.

Moss said that teenagers often volunteer at their churches by taking care of children during services, by serving food at soup kitchens, or at the YMCA or other organizations that regularly take on young help.

She explained that as long as those hours can be confirmed and documented by officials from those organizations, the hours can be used, even if the students did not know about the service award before working those hours.

Volunteer hours that count toward classes, such as student government projects which require volunteer hours for class credit, can be counted toward the community service letter.

Hours that are counted toward other awards, such as performing in a benefit concert as hours necessary for a music letter, cannot be double-counted, she said.

Adult volunteers are also needed to help manage the program and confirm student hours, Moss said.

“It’s one of the more popular volunteer positions for adults,” she said.

At Port Angeles High School, there are five ways students can earn a varsity letter — in academics, athletics, music, drama and the renewed community service award, said Principal Garry Cameron.

“We want to recognize students in as many ways as we can,” Cameron said.

Athletic letters are earned when students complete a full season as a member of one of 22 varsity athletic teams and meet the requirements of a varsity letter in that sport.

Each coach has developed a unique set of requirements as appropriate to the sport, he said.

Academic letters are earned when students achieve a 3.5 grade point average for both semesters in a school year.

Music letters are earned for a two years’ membership in school bands, by maintaining high GPAs and points earned through performances, competitions and other music activities

Drama letters are earned for being a part of a drama production.

“All of our letters are the same,” he said of the green and white chenille “PA” given to students.

There is no way of distinguishing one letter from another, unless a student displays their letter on a letterman jacket with symbols of the sports or activities where they earned them.

Cameron said he expects a wide variety of students to earn the award, including high achievers who letter in other areas, and those who do not have the inclination toward athletics or the arts who may want to earn letter recognition at the school.

To learn more about the Youth United Letter in Service Program visit www.unitedwayclallam.org.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: January 28. 2013 6:27PM
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