AUBURN — Edward Little High School students can provide a lot of volunteer manpower on one day in May.

On Wednesday night, the Auburn School Committee gave the green light for teachers and administrators to plan one day where all students — some 946 of them — would not go to school.

Instead, they’ll go into the community and do good things.

It’s all about teaching students to give back, and “what it means to be an ‘Eddie,’” Guidance Director Erin Flynn said.

Flynn and three others, Assistant Principal Jim Horn and teachers Kim Finnerty and Karen Boucher, pitched the proposal to school committee members.

Volunteer work done by students could be yard improvement or painting for an elderly homeowner. It could be planting trees in the Auburn watershed, volunteering at the Good Shepherd Food-Bank, spending time with a “buddy” at a senior center, volunteering at an elementary school, cleaning up a local park, picking up trash along the river or a highway, planting a garden or working with Auburn Public Works on its Adopt-a-Spot Program.


Finnerty said that the students she mentors are considering sprucing up New Beginnings, an organization which provides services for homeless youth.

Flynn said 24 hours of community service is required for students to graduate from Edward Little High School. The volunteerism is done in a student’s junior or senior year. But there’s no reason community service opportunities can’t be broadened and started earlier, Flynn said.

Committee member Peter Letourneau said he’s very supportive of what the teachers want to do. But there’s one thing he would like to change.

“What troubles me is that it takes six months of planning for one day of execution,” he said. “It ought not to take that long.”

Educators explained this would be the first year of the effort and good planning is needed. The planning would be done by teachers and groups of students that they mentor, between 12 to 15 students. The groups meet for only 20 minutes each week, which doesn’t give them a lot of time to mentor and plan.

Committee member Bonnie Hayes said she liked most of what she heard, especially the prospect of high school students working with elementary students.


“It’s a fantastic idea,” Hayes said. But she did not want to see students lose a day of school.

School days “are so short, so numbered,” she said. The day should take place on a Saturday, she added.

Other committee members disagreed, stressing that the day would help the community and teach students valuable lessons.

Horn said he’s contacted businesses and organizations to get feedback about the program. Some businesses have employees not come to work for one day so they can use the time to do community service, he said.

Horn asked if students could partner with workers to get more done.

“Procter and Gamble loved the idea,” Horn said. So did United Way, Hammond Lumber, Lowe’s and Kohl’s, he added.


Committee member Tom Kendall said the project should be led mostly by the students. Horn should not be contacting organizations, he said, the students should.

“You’re short-changing the students,” he said.

Hayes disagreed. If she had a small business and a student approached her, she would call the school to confirm what the student had told her, she said. Having a teacher or administrator call a business first “adds credibility.” she added.

School committee members didn’t vote on the program, but told educators to proceed with planning and report back in January, when a vote on the matter would be held.

In other business, the committee:

* Heard a report from Farmington pediatrician Michele McCormick on an “Adverse Childhood Experience,” and how trauma robs students of healthy learning and development. McCormick asked Auburn educators to be aware of that as they plan programs and to consider how powerful one teacher can be to a child from a home where there’s abuse, trauma or neglect.

* Discussed contacting committee member Ron Potvin to ask him why he’s missed three scheduled meetings without notifying Superintendent Katy Grondin that he’d be absent.

* Welcomed new Ward 4 committee member Chris Langis. Langis was elected to the open seat during Tuesday’s election, sworn in on Wednesday and served his first meeting on Wednesday night.

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