Celebrating Community Service at Stillwater Area High School

letter jacket

Come this summer, you might notice a new patch on a Stillwater Area High School student’s letter jacket. For the first time ever, high school students will be able to earn a varsity letter for their volunteer efforts within the community.

“Stillwater is one of only a few districts in the state to offer a varsity letter for community service,” said Sara Pennebecker, Volunteer Center Program Manager at Community Thread. “The letter recognizes the efforts of students who have given back to the community in a meaningful way. They’re gaining leadership opportunities, developing new skills, and being exposed to people who look differently than themselves. It’s exciting to celebrate that.”

Every year students volunteer through a variety of community service projects as part of National Honor Society, Key Club, or other school-based organizations. Many more students clock volunteer hours through scouts, church groups, or individual endeavors. The varsity letter program was created as a way to recognize those things already taking place, while reaching out to an even wider audience.

“Letters aren’t just for sports and athletic achievements,” said Kristen Deiderichs, a high school junior and co-chair of the school’s Key Club. “You don’t have to be in a club or activity. It challenges anyone who wants to volunteer to get out there, do the work and get recognized.”

Nearly 20 students have signed on to the program so far, with a goal of enrolling 40 students in its first year. Students have one year to clock 100 hours of community service. Half of that time must be spent working with a specific cause that is personally relevant to them, such as homelessness, equity, environment or social justice. To obtain the letter students must track their service hours, obtain two letters of recommendation, and complete a reflection project.

“Volunteering is a rewarding experience,” said Ellie McGinley, a high school junior who is active in Key Club, National Honor Society and several music and sports groups. “No one walks away from it regretting they did it. We learn skills that will be with us for the rest of our lives. Volunteering has opened my eyes and shown me there is a real need to help others.”

Learn more about the Community Service Varsity Letter online.

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