Harrisburg: Community Outside the Classroom

HARRISBURG, S.D. – Harrisburg students had one of their most memorable days of school today, but it wasn’t even in the classroom.

10 years ago, two teachers looked out at their students when they sparked an ambitious idea.

”Wouldn’t it be neat if we could giver back to the community a little bit?”

Hence, the Harrisburg “Day of Action” was born.

Each homeroom class at Harrisburg Middle School North is headed to a different community organization. The program started with 14 organizations. Now, they have 41.

”We called just nonprofit organizations and we said ‘would you take a group of middle school students?’ and that’s kind of a risky thing to ask them,” said Bridget Leach, an organizer and sixth grade teacher.

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken opened with a pep talk.  He told students that serving is about helping others without expecting anything in return.

“It’s great for the public and the community to see these kids running around yards doing different things to give back,” said TenHaken. “I think it’s a neat, neat cause.”

Then, students, boarded 13 bright yellow buses in the front of school. They were off on  a field trip with a purpose.

Organizers had no clue their decade-old idea would be a driving force of change in the community.

“It’s very humbling,” said Leach. “I don’t do this for me. I do this for the kids. I want to feel what it means to serve.”

Homeroom classes went to assigned places like the Humane Society, elementary schools, or here, the Outdoor Campus.

7th graders are crafting away, creating educational materials for younger students.

”It gives me a happy feeling that I am helping the community,” said Elizabeth Harty, a seventh grader.

Teaming up for a good cause is how these homeroom classes bond early in the school year.

Organizers say that over 10 years, not a single student has opted out of participating.

“You just get a warm feeling in your heart and that’s what I want them to experience,” said Leach.

The “Day of Action” is growing with Harrisburg’s student population.  According to organizers, the school has a staggering two and a half times the amount of sixth graders that it had 13 years ago.

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