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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest High honor students help community through service

Mar 30, 2017 11:32AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High School’s National Honor Society members help wrap burritos that they deliver to the homeless while volunteering with the Burrito Project. (Michelle Hawkins/Hillcrest High School)

By Julie Slama   |  [email protected]

Hillcrest High School senior Gracie Otto tutors classmates before school. She has been helping with activities at a senior living center and can be seen making burritos to hand out to some of Salt Lake City’s homeless.

She isn’t alone in these and other service activities. She is joined by about 50 other National Honor Society students who spend 50 hours per year providing community service.

“I like having the opportunity to give service,” Otto said. “It helps me grow as a person and by helping others, I get a really good feeling. It’s so easy to do and there’s so many opportunities to give. People need the help so whenever I can, I want to help them.”

One of Otto’s favorite opportunities to serve is helping at Canyon Creek Senior Living.

Canyon Creek Senior Living in Cottonwood Heights is about a five-minute drive for the National Honor Society members who have helped there several times this year by joining seniors in playing board games and bingo, singing Christmas carols, decorating Valentine’s cookies and holding a senior dance.

“It was the greatest night. We brought in decorations, gave artificial flowers to the ladies and we all danced together. Even those in wheelchairs boogied down to music that was played by a band that was brought in to play music of their era,” Otto said. “I love helping there. It’s such a special place and I love talking with these seniors and they appreciate the time we spend there.”

Hillcrest’s National Honor Society adviser Michelle Hawkins said that honor students have been helping at Canyon Creek for about eight years.

“They made a commitment to them and whether it’s a dance or they’ve taken hot chocolate and made crafts, the students take the time to listen to them tell about their lives before TV and cell phones and computers,” she said. “Our students are learning so much from them and are able to relate better to elderly family members from this experience and the seniors are grateful for what our students’ visits.”

Otto also appreciates helping with the Burrito Project. Founded by Rico Brand production and distribution warehouse, community members, such as Hillcrest High’s National Honor Society, are welcomed to volunteer to make burritos at Frida Bistro and hand them out to Salt Lake City’s homeless.

Otto said that with about five other National Honor Society members, they have made about 110 burritos with the available rice, beans and tortillas. After about 45 minutes of making the burritos, they deliver them, which can take about an hour.

“At first I was hesitant as a teen to hand out burritos, but I found these people are gracious and thankful. In the winter, where so many of them are cold and are in need, I’m even more motivated to help,” she said.

Hawkins said that this is a good opportunity for her students.

“This helps students get out of their comfort zone. It’s an eye-opener for them to be thankful for what they have and realize that the homeless people are thankful for what they’re able to provide them,” she said.

Hawkins, who arranges others opportunities for students, such as tutoring and helping with school fundraisers, also approves student ideas of service from hospital volunteer work to coaching recreational teams to teaching English to helping at animal shelters.

The idea is to provide a variety of service throughout the school year, she said.

“I like giving the students some structure for volunteering so they can gain appreciation in who they are helping — their classmates, the elderly, the homeless. That variety can be reflected on college applications and scholarships and they become more aware of others in their community who can use their help,” she said.

In the past, Hillcrest juniors are invited to apply for National Honor Society membership with a 3.7 grade-point average and good citizenship. Students make a commitment to attend the quarterly meetings, maintain their grade-point average, pay membership costs and give 50 hours of service.

This coming year, Hawkins plans to extend the opportunity of service through National Honor Society to sophomores and juniors.