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A “Week of Service” at Penn State New Kensington School put students in the community helping local nonprofits and other causes, from a no-kill animal shelter to serving patrons at a “pay what you can” café.

The student government at Penn State’s New Kensington campus initially planned to hold two service events in March, but numerous campus clubs and individual students helped to expand the effort to a total of seven projects over the course of a week, according to Penn State News.

Students visited the Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley, to help the animal shelter transition to a new 10,000-square-foot building by clearing out the site’s basement and sorting items for donations and the dumpster. Students also donated puppy rugs they crafted from old shirts during orientation.

“To help any organization in the community, it gives (students) a very broad view of all the things that go on in the community,” Phyllis Framel, board president of Animal Protectors, told the news site. “There are a lot of nonprofits, especially in this area, and they do a lot of good work. To get students exposed, I think, helps them form an idea of what’s done in the community, but also what they may want to do in the future in their communities as a professional or as a volunteer.”

Members of New Kensington’s Biobehavioral Health Club also went to the Knead Community Café to help clean and serve food, as did many other students who were not affiliated with the club. The Outdoor Adventure Club volunteered at the Murrysville Community Center March for Parks 5K, where they helped youth with craft projects at the event.

Others went to Seneca Place to host bingo for senior citizens at the nursing facility.

Students also collected toiletries to craft care packages for victims of domestic violence served by the Alle-Kiski Area HOPE Center, donated to a blood drive on campus, and held an event to raise awareness about efforts to fight childhood cancer.

“It really shows what Penn State is all about, helping our community and other people in general,” said junior Ian Callender, who helped at several events.

Michele Marcks, assistant director of student affairs, told Penn State News the “Week of Service” is one way the university inspires students to serve their communities throughout the year.

Hands-on experience is the best teacher. Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture sociologist James Davison Hunter explains that the communitarian strategy for moral development highlights that “individuals are social creatures inextricably embedded in their communities.... Experience was always a precursor to the possession of character and practical wisdom, for it schools the individual in the range of circumstances within which the virtues would find expression.”

“Just giving back is obviously very important, and it’s one of our Penn State values to make sure we’re part of the community, and we’re getting our students to really embody that,” Marcks said.

Teachers and principals working to strengthen moral and citizenship formation in their students will find useful information and strategies at the UK's The Jubilee Centre. The Jubilee Centre site also contains teachers lesson plans on character and moral formation.

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