CLIFTON PARK — “You are loved” and “Someone cares about you” were among messages that adorned lockers Tuesday at Shenendehowa High School East.
Almost 100 freshmen stayed after school for the twice-yearly freshman Give Back Day, an hour-long period dedicated to community service and school beautification projects. The district hosted a Give Back Day in the spring and had one scheduled in October that was canceled due to bad weather.
This week, students worked on indoor projects, like scrubbing desks, lockers and chalkboards. In the past, students have spread mulch and planted flowers (during spring give-back days) or cleaned up the outside of the building.
On Tuesday, every locker in the school was washed, and students chatted while they scrubbed pen-marks off desks in various classrooms. Some students also cleaned school computers.
But the afternoon wasn’t just about cleaning. It had an artistic aspect, as well. One group of students worked on a Shen “pride sign,” to give other students a place to stick notes detailing their reasons for being proud of the school, or what they enjoyed the most about it.
Gabe Moronta, 14, was among those working on the pride sign. He said he signed up for Give Back Day partly to spend time with friends, but he also noted that he takes pride in Shen, since he grew up in the district and has brothers who graduated from the school.
“It’s my school,” Moronta said, as his fellow students outlined large letters spelling “Shen” in green markers.
Faculty chaperones also stayed after school, each assigned to oversee a group project. Some even lent a helping hand with the cleanup effort.
Kristen Lennon-McMahan, class assistant principal, spoke to the assembled students before they left to work in groups all around the building. She explained that, while the community aspect of the afternoon was an important factor, it was equally important for students to enjoy spending time helping their school.
“Make sure you’re having fun,” Lennon-McMahan said.
New this time was a “pay it forward” aspect to the afternoon, during which students wrote positive messages on multi-colored Post-it notes and placed them on lockers and inside teachers’ mailboxes. In total, 122 notes were written for teachers and support staff, while 850 were written for students and placed on the outsides of lockers.
Ethan Byron, one of the students who was writing notes for teachers, said that it was important to show appreciation for a supportive school community and to give back to teachers who consistently helped students.
“I feel like this is something I would love. Teachers are definitely going to like these,” Byron said of the notes.