Northeast Joco

Shawnee Mission East seniors give back to the community

Shawnee Mission East Senior Ben McKissick-Hawley picks up his Senior Service Day T-shirt from parent volunteer Jane Shook.
Shawnee Mission East Senior Ben McKissick-Hawley picks up his Senior Service Day T-shirt from parent volunteer Jane Shook. Special to The Star

While the freshmen, sophomores and juniors of Shawnee Mission East were busy with testing, the seniors had the opportunity to sleep in Wednesday.

Instead, 325 of the 392 members of the senior class came to school anyway to take part in Senior Service Morning.

“Everyone wants to see these kids develop a habit for giving it back,” said Kristyn Wiggins, coordinator of the school’s SHARE community service organization. “This is awesome, and you hope it imprints on them.”

Wiggins said the idea for Senior Service Day came from the school’s principal, John McKinney, last year.

Students went in groups to sites all over the area. One site was the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City.

Each group had one student in charge to coordinate, and Anna Witwer led the group of six students going to CCVI.

“We each were in a classroom. … We did little activities. We had circle time, where we sang songs and talked about what day it was,” she said. “I think they liked having us there. A lot of them can’t talk (because they’re so little), so it’s kind of hard to tell, but the ones who could were excited to have new people to see and play with.”

Anna said she felt a particular empathy toward kids with special needs, because her sister also has special needs.

“I really like volunteering. This is a better use of my time than sleeping in. I can sleep in on the weekends,” she said. “I would definitely encourage all of (next year’s seniors) to do it. It’s really fulfilling to do something for other people.”

Kate Hales was also in the group going to CCVI and said she was inspired to join this particular site group after attending a talent show put on by blind and deaf students this summer.

Other sites of the day included the Crossroads Hospice, Great Plains SPCA, Habitat ReStore, Operation Breakthrough and Ronald McDonald House. In total, there were 21 sites students could choose to join.

Many parents came to the school to help see the students off and hand out doughnuts and drinks.

“I just think it’s terrific that they’re giving back to the community that’s given so much to them,” said parent volunteer Kathy Morrison. “To provide them with an opportunity to have a class-building event — I think it’s fantastic.”

Volunteering at a new site on your own can be intimidating, Morrison said, but being able to go with groups of fellow students and friends encourages them to try something new.