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Jerome Bacani, St. Joseph Catholic High School
St. Joseph Catholic High School seniors Greg Sweetland and Simon Huang lend a helpful hand at Youth Impact in Ogden, Utah as part of the school's week of service.

OGDEN— Seniors at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden didn't attend their regular classes this week. Instead, they spent the week doing service at several service organizations around the community.

This is a new tradition St. Joseph started just last year.

"I think it really opens our students' eyes," said Clay Jones, principal of St. Joseph Catholic High School. "It gives them an experience they wouldn't otherwise have. Not many schools are going to let their seniors out for a week of school to serve in their community."

"I feel it's our job to educate the whole person. St. Joseph's does an amazing job with this, by providing all of our students service opportunities throughout the year," said Kari Lane, enrollment manager at St. Joseph. "We appreciate these organizations giving our students the opportunity to better themselves and to help them develop the desire to serve."

In total, 37 students spent the week outside the classroom and in the Ogden community doing acts of service. These students worked at Catholic Community Services, Youth Futures, Mission Health, Youth Impact, the Boys and Girls Club, Promise Refugee Center, the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership and the LDS Bishop's Storehouse.

"The experience has opened my eyes to what other kids are going through in our community," senior Danny Donlevy said of his experience.

"I have always said that I am bad with kids and kids don’t like me, but working this week with these kids has changed my life," said Kathleen Tomon, one of the seniors who spent the week working with the Ogden-Weber Community Action Partnership. "These kids are amazing, they are happy to be here and learn. They remind me of why I first loved school and have shown me that smiling makes everything better. They make me realize how important it is to help these younger kids."

"Spending this week with the children has been awe-inspiring because it is not just about the experience, it is about the feeling," said Jared Wright, another senior from St. Joseph. "All the children know how to do is love those around them, and it makes me love just as much as they do. That made me realize a lot about how I treat those in my life and helped me discover how much I love my family and also the people I go to school with. My kids have left a permanent impact on my heart."

Samantha Hart is one of the teachers who works with the Head Start program. "I’ve had the opportunity to work with Jake from St. Joseph High School for the last week," Hart said. "He has been such a positive and fun influence with all the children in my class. His interaction with the children is always on a positive and age appropriate level. The children have thoroughly enjoyed his presence. We are so grateful to have high school seniors volunteer at our program that impact the children of tomorrow."

"Having the volunteers here was a great experience for us. We were able to put them in the shoes of site coordinators," said Cash Knight of the Boys and Girls Club. "Online training, being involved in the team meetings and shadowing our site coordinators and staff members. In addition, this was an awesome opportunity for our site coordinators to slow down and really explain what they do and why they do it."

St. Joseph's seniors will return to class next week. Hopefully this experience will help establish a tradition of service both for the school and for the students who go there.