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Sewickley Academy students volunteer on Day of Service

| Thursday, April 14, 2016, 1:33 p.m.
Sewickley Academy fourth-grader Julia Nagel tosses leaves onto a pile as she and classmates clean up around the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy fourth-grader Julia Nagel tosses leaves onto a pile as she and classmates clean up around the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.
Sewickley Academy fourth-graders Ashley Close (left) and Isabella Badhwar rake leaves at the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy fourth-graders Ashley Close (left) and Isabella Badhwar rake leaves at the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.
Sewickley Academy fourth-graders Ashley Close (left) and Jayden Garcha carry a bag of leaves out of the tennis court as they and classmates clean up around the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sewickley Academy fourth-graders Ashley Close (left) and Jayden Garcha carry a bag of leaves out of the tennis court as they and classmates clean up around the Sewickley Community Center as part of the academy's Day of Service on Friday, April 8, 2016. This is the school's fifth annual Day of Service—a full school day dedicated to service projects on and off campus. This year, students worked in the school's Secret Garden and wrote letters to military persons as well as helped out at off-site locations including the community center, Light of Light Ministries, Avonworth Community Park, Fern Hollow Nature Center, World Vision, Villa St. Joseph and more.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Sewickley Academy teacher Jonathan Riddle. The spelling of his name has been corrected online.

Unseasonably cold temperatures couldn't keep Sewickley Academy students indoors for the school's fifth annual Day of Service last week.

Bundled up in coats and hats, middle school students helped tidy and prepare the Secret Garden, which is located on Hazel Lane behind the school in Edgeworth.

Middle School science teacher Jonathan Riddle has been planning the garden's Day of Service events for five years.

The students select eight to 12 options for an organization or event they would like to help with, he said. This year, 43 students signed up to help prepare the garden.

Riddle said the students can “stop by at any time to see the fruits of their labor.”

Seventh-grader Hudson Bordeau and sixth-grader Abby Lehman were among the volunteers. Abby has helped with the project in the past.

“It makes me realize that I want to always help others, even when I'm older,” she said.

Hudson agreed that volunteerism is important.

“It might be difficult, but once the work is done, you feel good about what you've done,” Hudson said.

In addition to the Secret Garden, the school worked with more than 30 organizations in Western Pennsylvania for the event, the school's diversity and service learning Director LaVern Burton said.

Day of Service strives to instill the acts of giving and helping others through volunteerism.

The academy sent students to groups such as Animal Friends, Villa St. Joseph of Baden, Light of Life Ministries, The Pittsburgh Project and Hugs for Heroes.

The sites for Day of Service are chosen based on the type of service, curriculum of each grade, the capabilities of the students and the age of the volunteers.

Burton said she thinks no child is too young to contribute to the betterment of our society.

“This event builds empathy; gives a sense of community,” Burton said. “We have to go out and help. We try to introduce volunteering early to create habits later. We try to encourage our students to ‘look for more.' Sometimes, it's just a matter of needing hands to help.”

Christina Sheleheda is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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