High School Student’s Community Service Requirement Becomes Personal Dedication

July 26, 2006 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Russ Leggett seems like most boys his age. An upcoming junior at St. Stephenís and St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he is a member of the cross-country, wrestling, and lacrosse teams. He is also part of a local Eagle Scouts group and is anxiously waiting to get his license. Unlike most high school students, however, Russ will be making his second trip to Romania this year at the end of August. He will participate in a volunteer Quest through United Planet, a Boston-based non-profit organization that coordinates humanitarian, volunteer experiences around the world.

Russ originally went to Romania during his Spring Break this year. The school offered the trip through United Planet as a way for the students to fulfill the community service requirement. Russ wanted to go just so he could complete his community service and not have to worry about it anymore. But something changed in Russ during the trip that made him wanted to go again, despite having already completed the required hours. He says, ďI am so glad that I went. Itís one of the top things Iíve ever done and Iíve learned more from that experience than I have from anything else.Ē

In Romania, Russ worked with fellow classmates on three main projects to help an orphanage called Pro Vita. For a week, they moved lumber for houses to be built, planted trees on a neighboring hill to stop erosion, and built wire cages filled with rocks to form a barrier from the river. While these were all necessary projects to help protect the orphanage, Russ described the most important thing they did was to interact with the orphans. ďThe kids donít really get much personal attention and they really appreciated having someone around their age to interact with. It was really cool to form a bond with them.Ē

Russí experience with the orphans did not end when he came home. He and the other students held a presentation for the rest of the school organizing a picture slideshow, distributing a pamphlet about what they did, and a question and answer session. They held weekly meetings with the other students from the Quest and new students would come every week to learn more about what they did. That is when the students decided they wanted to go back a second time. They started raising money to send to the orphanage and to cover the expenses for their return trip.

When Russ approached his parents about returning, they asked him why he really wanted to go back. He explains, ďI told them that I really wanted to see the kids again. It was really touching when we left because the kids kept telling us to come back in the summer or for our next spring break. It made me realize how much that I have and how lucky I have been and that I should do something to help these people out that donít have anything.Ē After hearing the dedication in his sonís voice, his parents couldnít refuse his request to go.

Russ will be leaving on August 24 th with some fellow classmates, both new students and veterans like himself. He hopes that his trip will inspire others. For him, the most important message of the trip is to raise awareness of the issue. ďI want others to know that poverty is real; itís not just something that you see on TV. People live day to day without enough to eat, wearing the same clothes all the time. Anything that anyone can do would help these kids. Anything you can do to just give them a little hope makes a big difference in their lives.Ē

For additional information on the news that is the subject of this release, contact Stephanie Leonard or visit www.unitedplanet.org.