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WWU students get a boost and a ‘Thanks!’ from Shuksan Middle School

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WWU student Christina Everett, right, leads a group discussion at Shuksan Middle School with WWU Retention Project coordinator Trisha O’Hara, left. | Photo by Matthew Anderson

WWU student volunteers at Bellingham’s Shuksan Middle School help kids with everything from college-prep academics to community service projects.

And don’t think Shuksan hasn’t noticed.

“The effort they’ve put in down here has been huge for our kids. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” says Andrew Mark, Shuksan’s principal. “They’ve made a significant difference in the lives of our under-served students.”

Which is why Mark and other Shuksan administrators this year honored the WWU students with the school’s Volunteer of the Year award. The students, who come to Shuksan through Woodring College of Education’s Service Learning Office, help out through three different programs.

Youth 4 R.E.A.L. (Relationship, Exploration, Action and Leadership) has WWU students mentor Shuksan kids as they explore their own interests through community service projects they design themselves. One group, for example, chose to build a Web site to educate their peers about the risks of joining a gang.

ALTO (A Latino Team Organization), started at the request of a handful of Shuksan kids, has members of WWU’s M.E.Ch.A. student club come to Shuksan to mentor about 30 kids and plan activities exploring their cultural heritage.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a program for middlelevel students whose parents didn’t attend college. WWU students tutor Shuksan students to help them pass their academically challenging classes and prepare for college. Both Western and Shuksan students benefit from the efforts at the school, says WWU student Jamie Daniels.

“Western students need to see how upbeat and energetic middle school students are, and need a reminder that there is more to life than the paycheck and the grade,” Daniels says. “Shuksan students need to see positive role models that have gone through difficult times and yet succeeded in school and life.”