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Difference makers: Civic Seal program celebrated at Silver Creek

OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen Pictured from left are Silver Creek High School students Timothy Williams, Stephanie VanCheri, Sarah Cross, Emily Bowers, Kaelee Weiskerger and Kendal Brunn celebrate earning the NY Seal of Civic Readiness.

SILVER CREEK — A fundamental goal of the education system is to help prepare students for life after school so that they become functioning members of society. One program at Silver Creek High School is a shining example of achieving that goal.

Six student leaders of the New York Seal of Civic Readiness program at Silver Creek High School shared the highlights of their involvement with the course at a recent Board of Education meeting. The students — Emily Bowers, Kendal Brunn, Sarah Cross, Stephanie VanCheri, Kaelee Weiskerger and Timothy Williams — each discussed their civic service projects and the impact the course had on them.

Bowers, the district’s Valedictorian, was first to share her project with the Board of Education. She focused on restoring the garden at the St. Columban’s on the Lake assisted living facility along Route 5.

Due to vandalism and intense weather, the water fixture of the garden was no longer functional, while the garden itself was overgrown. Still, the garden was cherished by the residents of the facility, and its deterioration was a source of great displeasure from the residents.

Bowers saw this project as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the skills the Civic Seal course emphasizes, and her results speak to her success. Bowers raised more than $10,000 to install a new water fixture, enhance the plumbing and electrical services, and restructure the stone surrounding the area. Bowers has also assisted with the gardening needs at the facility.

Bowers reached out to various community members and entities for assistance and participated in several fundraising craft fairs to support the project. All of the necessary renovations and maintenance were funded by Bowers’ project.

“The residents are so thrilled that the garden is being restored. I was glad to help St. Columban’s out preserving the beauty of the historic ground that provides an extraordinary home for their residents,” Bowers said.

Brunn chose to assist the district’s Information Technology help desk. In doing so, Brunn assisted with what were deemed “mundane tasks that nobody really wanted to do that just take up a lot of time,” such as tracking inventory or answering questions. By doing so, the IT department was able to focus on more challenging parts of the job, while Brunn learned teamwork and collaboration skills.

“It helped give me a sense of fulfillment and it felt like I was actually doing something to help out within our school community,” Brunn said.

Cross focused on community service through volunteering more than 60 hours of work last summer with the Town of Sheridan’s Youth Summer Recreation Program. Cross valued the many relationships she built with children within the community through the program.

“Although service isn’t the sole purpose of the Seal of Civic Readiness, it definitely impacted me the most,” Cross said. “I’m thankful for this amazing opportunity I had to learn about my community, and even myself.”

Cross also noted that working closely with a municipality taught her a lot about how programs are funded and the rules and regulations that must be followed. “This was interesting to see because it gave me a new perspective on ways the Town supports its local community,” Cross said.

VanCheri and Weiskerger focused on fundraising to support the fight against cancer. Through hosting a spaghetti dinner in February, along with a basket raffle and ticket sales, the two students helped collect $1,000 to donate to the Patricia Allen Fund at Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo. Both students plan to pursue careers in the medical field, so they chose to work together with the same goal in mind.

Finally, the last student to present was Williams. As a member of the Turtle Clan of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca, Williams began by introducing himself in his native language. Rather than doing one specific project, Williams was enrolled in several classes that helped him meet the requirement for the Civic Seal. Williams highlighted the Genocide and Human Rights course he took for the impact it left on him, especially because of a field trip to Washington, D.C.

Among the places Williams visited on class field trips includes the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, a tour of the National Mall, and a trip to the Capitol building. He felt the trips were impactful because of the emphasis he puts on representing his own culture.

Silver Creek teachers Anthony DiGennaro and Kristen Foley oversee the course, which stresses community service and civic engagement from students as they prepare for graduation. Focus areas include leadership, communication, and community service. The program began in 2021, and formal recognition upon graduation is given to students who complete the course.

Other service projects over the years of the program include a charity game to benefit cancer research, a spaghetti dinner to raise funds to benefit Ukraine, and a veteran wall at the district.

Board of Education President Martha Howard stated she was “very impressed” with the presentation from the students. At a previous meeting, Board of Education member Stephen Boothe said of the program, “I am thrilled to see that Silver Creek has put the foot on the accelerator and we’ve got this as part of what we feel is important.”

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