ELKHART — Elkhart Community Schools’ high school students got a day out of the classroom and in the sun Friday, May 24, in celebration of volunteering more than 36,000 hours through the school year.
Members of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee (SSAC) announced in November the plan for students to give 30,000 hours in community service, a project students named Service Project X. Since then, students have volunteered at student-organized events collecting food, writing letters to members of the military and running fundraisers, and volunteered individually in their neighborhoods raking leaves, shoveling snow and baby sitting.
Approximately 3,000 high school students and 500 staff gathered at Elkhart’s Central Park Friday to celebrate the students’ achievement with games, music, food and participation in what will likely set a world record for the largest game of tag.
The morning started with a presentation that included Elkhart Mayor Dick Moore, State Rep. Tim Neese, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly and several school officials congratulating and thanking the students for their volunteer work.
Rod Roberson, executive director of Church Community Services, had been excited to see the students kick off the initiative at CCS last November and spoke to the crowd of students Friday morning. He noted how much the students had accomplished, but also how much it meant for those on the receiving end.
“What’s going to be lasting is what you do for someone else, and what you did for all the agencies and not-for-profits and all the people who needed the hours that you gave them, it’s greatly appreciated,” he said, then encouraging the students to “continue to stay engaged with your community.”
Following the presentation, the group moved to what Elkhart Superintendent Rob Haworth called “Guinness Park,” more commonly known as the former Elkhart Foundry property, for the giant game of tag.
Administrators’ plans had been to attempt to set world records for the largest game of tag and the largest game of red light/green light, but Friday decided to just focus on the game of tag.
A group of students and some staff were “taggers” who tried to touch other students as they ran across the field.
“To make a new record, we need to go from 3,000 to one,” Haworth said. The students did just that.
According to the Guinness World Records’ website, the record for the largest game of tag included 1,566 participants in a game in Japan. Haworth said that there are several steps to achieving a world record, including having the entire game filmed, which the Elkhart Fire Department did from atop a lift extended into the air on a ladder truck. Elkhart Community Schools officials and Guinness personnel will need to continue working through that process before Elkhart’s high schools formally hold the record.
Adrianna Riley, a Central junior, said she had done quite a bit of work in the community before Service Project X.
She’s helped build houses with LaCasa and helps baby-sit for neighbors, among other things.
“I think it’s important to help other people and not just thinking of yourself,” she said.
“I think it’s great that we could come together to help our community,” she said about the two high schools going beyond the 30,000-hour goal.
Juan Gonzalez, a junior at Memorial, put in volunteer hours with some friends helping dig holes for fence posts at a house through LaCasa.
“It feels good to give back to the community,” Gonzalez said.
In the afternoon, students were able to participate in a number of activities, including soccer juggling, live-action role playing (LARPing), basketball and football throws, Rubik’s Cube races and several other events. A few local bands provided live music, so some students just enjoyed lounging and listening or chatting with friends.
All students and staff wore T-shirts that said “Commun1ty,” in recognition of the two high schools, but the one Elkhart community.
“It’s great to see faculty, community, students coming together for one cause, one purpose,” he said.