2016 service projects in review

In this world there are “givers” and “takers.”

As discussed in a previous newsletter article on White River Academy’s servant leadership operation, the array of service types availed beyond standard juvenile community service penance or credit-rewarded high school volunteerism to “inevitably pull each out of their self-centered shell, bond him with his fellows and give each an opportunity to build – with his hands and his heart – something he can be proud of.”

White River improves the surrounding Delta, Utah, community with four different levels of contribution.

  1. Elbow grease: Work done in White River’s Compliance group: This type of work is used as a structured service, to teach the boys acquiescence and motivate them to work up to a level of dependability to join White River’s Community group.

The return: Personal satisfaction to proceed to the next level.

  1. Work details: This is community work specifically requested.

The return: Donations are made to the group doing the work. All of those funds go into a pool to fund the student’s small service projects, which entail: “hands-on training from Mr. Skip, 10-25 man hours” and “a budget around $200.” The work of one student earns financial aid for the initial project of his cohorts. The young men learn how to work for the common good.

  1. Good old service: The young men have recurring community volunteerism.

The return: Intrinsic reward of lending a helping hand.

  1. Large Service Project: This is the pièce de résistance each student must fulfill. Criteria includes: “full fundraising by the student – with typically zero help allowed from parents, 50-100 man hours” and “a budget of $500-$600,” according to the previous article.

The return: Success, satisfaction and promotion from White River Academy!

Here’s a look at service from this past year.

January 2016: Building a school display case


Program Director Justin Nielson consults on a service project as students build a wooden display case for a local elementary school. Many student service projects benefit local institutions as well as private citizens.

February 2016: Making blankets for seniors


David carefully lines up swatches of fabric to make blankets on his service project. He donated a stack of colorful blankets to the local senior care center to help residents beat the winter chill.

February 2016: Cleaning a resident’s yard


A White River Academy student shows enthusiasm amidst the hard work. The students helped clean the yard of a local elderly woman by clearing our dead leaves, removing brush and raking out the ground. They hauled the waste away and left the yard looking much improved.

March 2016: Renovating a church sign


Zach wanted to make small project removing the old, dilapidated sign at the Delta Community Church and a large project out of installing a brand new sign for the church as a replacement. The students used sledgehammers to remove the bricks around the base and hauled the rubble away.

August 2016: Building a porch ramp


Mr. Skip says this is the ideal project scenario. Donny had a series of conversations over previous Compliance group work, pulling weeds at a handicapped man’s house. Donny saw a need and innovated this project: refurbishing the man’s handicap ramp. The resident was permanently injured in a semitrailer truck accident. The homeowner would come out and visit with the boys and talk to them like adults, which esteemed the young men.

August 2016: Refurbishing a baseball field


White River students work on Palomar Baseball Field. Program Director Justin Nielson adopted the field on behalf of White River to maintain for the little league baseball team. White River regularly does service projects here, including repainting the back stop, installing a sandbox for kids to play and revamping the dug outs. The Academy also plans an annual project enlisting loved ones coming for Parent Weekend.

September 2016: Covering the silage


This compliance activity is an arduous, weeks-long annual contribution by White River to the local farmers. The farmers cut down entire corn stalk crop. The remnants are ground to feed for dairy farmers’ cattle. A miles-long line of huge semitrailer trucks are involved in the transporting. The young men in compliance group help cover the silage with tarps and heavy tires to pack it down. This requires a lot of elbow grease but when the boys come back, they’re covered in tire reside and love the excitement of getting their hands dirty!

September 2016: Welding a bike rack


Donny welded a bike rack for Athenian eAcademy charter school. The school has a bare-bones lot, since it is small, and most funds go to their hybrid satellite curriculum. Donny sold popcorn to fund the project and was proud to deliver all of his orders in a single day.

As White River Academy founder Justin Nielson affirms in his year-end message – making “givers” and project managers out of these rehabilitated boys seems to be having a praiseworthy effect post graduation: “Interestingly, most have started their own businesses or made a name for themselves in the military.”

With White River Academy coming up on its 15-year anniversary, 2017 promises to be an even more altruistic and impactful year down in Delta.

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