By: Grant Bennett
As the class of 2016 reaches 2nd semester, closing moments of our high school careers begin to unravel. Moments with our friends, teachers and loved ones become more precious and dear to our hearts. Things such as homecoming, ball games and pep rallies have more significance to us, because not only do these moments represent our final months as high school students, they show how far we have come as young adults. As seniors we are beginning to take the initiative to give back to the community with various acts of service to improve our local surroundings. The holiday season presents multiple opportunities to go out within the community and make a difference. Through acts of service, many seniors have been able to use their holiday to better the community. With the chances available to help out, many students jumped at the opportunity to assist in any way possible to make the holiday special for the community.
The Academy of Information Technologies programs for both Gray’s Creek High School and Pine Forest High School host an annual computer refurbishment day. With the help of the Cumberland County Schools Technology Department, over 100 students assisted in refurbishing nearly 500 desktop computers. The computers are distributed during the Christmas break and helped provide desktop computers for students who do not have one at home. Cameron Reed, a senior at Pine Forest, was among one of the students who helped out during the event. “Community service is very important to me because I am giving back to a community that has given me so much.” Students were assigned to work in different stations, Reed’s job was to take apart the donated computers to salvage the pieces that were useable. His favorite part of the refurbish day was interacting with a group of people who had the same passion for computers as he did. “The experience made me realize that I have the ability to help families who could not provide everything that I am blessed to have. We provided computers for over 100 families but more importantly we helped make people’s holidays special.” The event will be held this year on December 5th and Reed plans to continue to help through his service with computers.
One of the easiest ways you can volunteer is through things you love. 360 Elite Baseball Training will host clinics for youth baseball players over Christmas break and will have high school students help run the event. Cody Patterson, a high school senior from Gray’s Creek High School is a left handed pitcher on the varsity baseball team, plans to help run the clinics. He was selected to play in the 2015 Powerade State Games along with the region’s top baseball players and was named honorable mention in the Cape Fear Valley All-Conference Baseball team. “I love watching the kids grow and get smarter as baseball players, as well as better athletes in general,” said Patterson. “I just want to pass on what I learned to others.” He often thinks back to when he was younger and remembers what it was like playing ball: “I’m now in a position where I can pass the knowledge that I have to the younger kids so they don’t make the same mistakes I did. I think the youth have a lot of potential.” Most importantly, Patterson never forgets the life lessons you can learn from the game and how you can use the game to build character in young men. He constantly preaches that they can do anything and they must always work hard in anything they do because it will take them a long way in life. With kids having a safe place to play over the break and a positive teen role model to steer the way, the holidays can remain fun and still educational for younger children.
Operation Inasmuch has been an impactful Christian-based non-profit organization within the community since 1995. With the help of area churches, Operation Inasmuch has provided education, shelter and food for the needy throughout Cumberland County for over two decades. Throughout the holidays, there are many things students can do to volunteer through Operation Inasmuch. Pine Forest Senior, Molly Rose, has volunteered through many different acts such as serving breakfast, making valentines, collecting food and setting up birthday parties. “Operation Inasmuch signifies that there are opportunities for anyone. In return, it has given me a boost in self-confidence by seeing others empowered.” She believes the organization personifies the ideal of giving a hand up instead of a handout. “I love that you have one on one contact with people and once you become a regular volunteer you recognize the faces,” said Rose. “Never underestimate how one small act can lead to a big difference.” Volunteering for Operation Inasmuch has given her a new outlook of service and has ultimately helped shape her life.
As we transition into the holidays, it is important for students to remember how vital it is to give back to the community. Our community has influenced our lives and it is evident we must do what we can to continue the work of people who came before us. There are always chances for students to step within the community and impact the lives. As the future leaders of this area, it is our responsibility to show that we care about our surroundings and are willing to make sacrifices to do anything we can to make a difference. The holidays often represent moments of fellowship, gifts and love, but the season encompasses more than what meets the eye. Giving back to our community exemplifies the beauty of the holidays and in turn personifies the true meaning of the season. With the emergence of another holiday season, there is no better way to show gratitude for what we have than to give back.