Mackenzie Grenier, left didn’t let her injured foot slow her down Friday morning as she and classmates from Edward Little High School work at Oak Hill Cemetery in Auburn during the school’s volunteer day. Working alongside her are fellow sophomores Ariana Guay, middle, and Jacob Grealish, right. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — After two hours of work, Derek Becvar was covered in dirt from head to toe.

He wasn’t the only one. Very few, if any, of the students who volunteered at Whiting Farm in Auburn on Friday walked away clean.

For the first time since the pandemic began, Edward Little High School students ditched the classroom to volunteer in the school’s annual community service day. Spirits were high among the students who have had few opportunities to work together outside of class in the last year.

According to Assistant Principal Darren Avery, nearly 1,000 students from Edward Little donated their time to help Auburn churches, schools, non-profit organizations, public spaces and community members in need.

At Whiting Farm, a non-profit which supports children and adults with special needs, roughly 40 students helped remove plastic weed barriers and irrigation tubing from farm fields.

“It felt really good to do it, help them out,” Becvar, a sophomore, said. “It’s a lot of work, though.” He added that even with gloves, his hands were numb from ripping up the cold, muddy plastic.

Their hard work paid off, Whiting Farm Manager Andrew McBean said. In just a few hours, the students accomplished what would have taken employees a week.

Freshman Class President Leilani Mitchell, who’s younger brother has Downs Syndrome, was particularly happy to support the farm.

“They hire kids with special needs, so it’s nice knowing that when my brother grows up, he could possibly get a job here and he would be treated just as good as anyone else,” she said.

Edward Little normally has just one community service day in May, but this year the school is doubling up. Avery said Edward Little planned a second day in the fall to help foster a sense of community among mentor groups which have homeroom together each day.

“These students will be working together … to help improve our school culture and climate by creating positive relationships in these groups as they give back to our community,” Avery said.

Students and staff from Edward Little High School rake and clean up Friday morning around Oak Hill Cemetery in Auburn during the school’s annual volunteer day. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Community service is also part of Edward Little students’ graduation requirements. Students must volunteer in the community for at least 24 hours in order to receive their high school diploma.

For freshmen, sophomores and juniors, Friday’s community service day was a first. The annual tradition was canceled in the previous two years, due to the pandemic.

“It’s one of those things that creates community within the school,” which has been particularly challenging in the last year, Principal Scott Annear said.

Students were dropped off at their sites at 9 a.m. and worked until about 1 p.m., stopping for lunch near noon.

At the High Street Congregational Church, approximately 20 students partnered with congregation members to complete an array of important tasks. Students helped with yard work, additionally painting interior walls, cleaning windows and organizing.

Jaymie Saulnier, a junior, was told that it may have been 40 years since the church’s community share closet was reorganized. The closet mostly contains craft supplies and stationary, although signs from old events have also been stored there.

“We’re just giving back to the community that helps supports us as a high school,” she said. “We get funding from other people, and when we do fundraising, we work side by side with the community, but we don’t really get to engage as much. So it’s just kind of nice to come and do something for them that actually benefits people.

Another 40 students helped remove sticks, rake leaves and pick up sticks at Oak Hill Cemetery. Students even cleared the graves of Edward Little, the school’s namesake who died in 1849, and his family.

Before Friday, freshmen Solana Coy and Bianka Demers and sophomores Olivia Gurney, Liz Gove and Danni Haycock didn’t know each very well. But after raking leaves and picking up sticks at the cemetery together, they’ve become fast friends.

Although cleaning a cemetery isn’t glamorous, these students were confident that their efforts were important to the community.

“It’s definitely made a difference; you can definitely see the difference from when we got here,” Coy said. “I definitely think it’s respectful to make sure (for) the people who come here, it’s a clean place.”

Beyond helping others, the students said that volunteering has made them feel like they’re doing something worthwhile and productive. They enthusiastically agreed that they’re looking forward to a second community service day in the spring.


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