I, Spencer Smith, am a SITES student currently volunteering at North Olmsted City Hall. North Olmsted High School’s SITES Program, Social Involvement Through Education and Service, is celebrating its 25th class since its inception by Robert Pierce and Christine Kilbane. The program counts as an English and Social Studies class, meshing the two curriculums, in a three period class. Two days each week the students go out to the community and volunteer during school at local schools, hospitals, and nonprofits.
Jeff Zullo and Cheryl Huffer now teach the class. “The best aspect of SITES is witnessing our students’ velocity of growth in their personal community, connectivity, maturity, and leadership,” said Zullo. “Also, SITES inspires young adults to do tasks and take on challenges they might otherwise never consider.” The program tries to accomplish this growth through classroom activities, a week of service called Outreach Week, and a one day Leadership Camp at Firelands Scout Reservation.
Currently we are planning Outreach week, learning about social class and poverty, and reading Angela’s Ashes for English and A Long Way Gone for social studies. The one experience that really has defined the SITES program for me was Leadership camp. At this daylong event, we played team games, executed a service project, and bonded as a group. One activity we did was seemingly a simple one that became a lot harder than one would think. Our task was, with us our fingers, to raise a hula hoop from knee-level to chest-level. This task, although simple, became more difficult for our group of six, as I kept on positioning my fingers the wrong way. It was an exercise in trust and teamwork that took me longer than I’d like to admit to catch on. But, after a while and being benched during one attempt by my team, I was able to catch on and see that I was doing it all wrong. After that ordeal, my team and I went on the function fairly well in all the other tasks we had to do such as building a ramp to launch a golf ball out of plastic pipes or juggle several stuffed animals as a group.
Later we began our service project. We were split into two large groups. My group’s task was to clear some shrubs and other plants from the road into the camp. I was given a pair of gloves to move the cut brush to the trailer to be thrown into the woods later. But my role was cut short by a group of yellow jackets that didn’t like having their hole in the ground disturbed. A small swarm moved at me and the girl I was working with and stung me once and her several times. The supervisor, a camp staff guy, took us to the Mess Hall for medical purposes. In total, I probably spent 20 minutes doing actual service and an hour and a half sitting around in the mess hall with ice on my neck. I didn’t have the worst of it, the girl that was with me was stung several times on the leg, but we all got to walk away with a good story instead of doing actual service.
In addition to SITES, I run cross country, sing in Special Edition, and participate in the Spring Musical, but SITES has made my senior year very different from every other year. The experience at city hall and the nature center have given me another type of education that I couldn’t have received taking Psychology or a normal English class. I plan to use the connections I have made as well as the service based education to better myself not only as a person, but as a citizen of North Olmsted, the United States, and the world, and I plan to serve people and the community as my life moves on past high school.