Along with studying, taking part in school organizations and trying to have a social life, high school students also make time for community service. At Whitter High School, students do this through the SKILLS program.
Students Kindling Individuals Learning, Leading Students, or SKILLS, is an elective class at Whittier, the Sedalia School District 200’s alternative high school. The class is taught by Mark Johnson, who also teaches health, creative foods and physical education.
“At Whittier we like to develop the whole student,” Johnson said. “We try and help them become better citizens of our community. So we are big into community service.”
Students in SKILLS mentor students at Horace Mann, Skyline and Washington elementaries, along with the Pettis County Early Childhood Cooperative. The Whittier students help the children with subjects such as math and reading. Learning to read and knowing the importance of reading is something the SKILLS students really push with the youngsters. The elementary students are required to bring in books on the days they meet with the SKILLS students.
“My students help their buddies with reading, math or any other classes they may be having problems in. They also just talk about their daily day-to-day life,” Johnson said. “On occasions, we do special projects with them and also play a game with them.”
While the Whittier students are building helpful relationships with the elementary kids, they also are getting something out of their work. Tia Williams, a Whittier student who has been involved in SKILLS since last December, said: “SKILLS is supposed to help the kids, but it helps us just as much, if not more. It teaches us responsibility, patience and accountability.”
Williams chose to enroll in this class because she likes to be a helping hand and to teach the students how to enjoy school as much as she does.
While the elementary and co-op students are getting help with their education, they also have someone to talk to.
“Some of these kids may not have a positive role model in their lives. I like to think I am one for them,” Williams said.
Strong friendships have been built through the program and Williams’s favorite memories are from playing games with the younger students.
“It’s like we are one happy family,” she said.
Fernanda Alexander is a senior at Smith-Cotton High School.