More than 800 Ridgeview Junior High School students next week will volunteer for myriad local community service projects and work to combat hunger through a first-time event.
Ridgeview will host its inaugural "Make A Difference Day" May 23.
The event is designed to engage each of the school's 870 seventh- and eighth-graders in philanthropic projects, doing everything from community beautification work to collecting food for local and regional food-assistance programs.
It will start shortly after classes are set to begin May 23, but rather than take their normal classroom seats students will go on pre-organized field trips of sorts to conduct community service work.
"All of our students are doing some type of community service in the morning in Pickerington or somewhere close," said Susan Caudill, Ridgeview principal.
"We want our students to be socially responsible, and we want them to see the benefit of doing this."
According to Eileen McGarvey, a school counselor at Ridgeview, various student groups will go to places such as Olde Pickerington Village, where they will work with local businesses and other property owners to remove chipping paint from buildings, clear yard waste and plant flowers.
They'll also team with organizations such as the Pickerington Youth Athletic Association and the Pickerington Parks and Recreation Department to spruce up local ball fields and parks, and they'll help collect food for the PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington and for LifeCare Alliance.
"We're talking about a little bit of everything," McGarvey said. "The students will be doing all of the work."
At roughly 12:30 p.m., all Ridgeview students who have provided either a monetary or canned food donation for the PCMA Food Pantry of Pickerington will gather in the school's parking lot in preparation of a "Walk for Hunger."
In addition to the food pantry donations, the students will walk through a portion of the community in hopes of bringing attention to the issues of hunger in the Pickerington area.
"We will have our Walk for Hunger to help increase awareness," Caudill said.
"We're trying to come up with a campaign so the (Pickerington) food pantry can sustain its donations.
"Our intent is to have all of our students participate."
Caudill said Make A Difference Day and the Walk for Hunger are part of Ridgeview's ongoing effort to enlighten students about the benefits of community service, while also encouraging them to think about ways to solve community and global issues and social problems.
"The kids were instantly excited and passionate about this," Caudill said.