Mt. Vernon School Corp. named state’s first GenerationON district

FORTVILLE — Elementary students created a community garden. First- and fifth-graders assembled care packages for the homeless. And high school students visited a senior center.

Over the course of the school year, students enrolled in the Mt. Vernon School Corp. have participated in community service activities as part of the lessons they’re learning in classrooms.

Now, the district is being recognized for that effort, named as Indiana’s first GenerationON school district. The program encourages schools to help students be engaged citizens by planning and fulfilling community service projects that positively impact their hometowns.

Schools across the state, including several in Hancock County, participate in the program, but Mt. Vernon is the first district to have every school participate, said school board member Beth Smith, who serves as a consultant for GenerationON.

The program is funded by a Lilly grant and is free for schools to join if they’re interested in adding philanthropy and service learning education to their curriculum lineup, she said.

To become a GenerationON district, Mt. Vernon had to first fulfill a handful of obligations.

Staff members underwent service learning training, and each school had to complete a community service project among other requirements.

To maintain that designation, students at the school must complete at least one project annually. GenerationON provides online resources for educators to use in teaching students about philanthropy.

At Fortville Elementary, students planted a community garden and will donate the produce to area food banks, according to a news release.

At McCordsville Elementary, first- and fifth-graders teamed up to create care packages for children living in area homeless shelters. They collected toothbrushes, soap and other necessities to make bedtime bags for children in need.

And the district’s oldest students partnered with a local senior center to spread Christmas cheer and deliver Christmas cards.

Superintendent Shane Robbins said educators teach students math, English and science, but school should also serve as a place for them to learn about the importance of giving back to their community.

And the district is dedicated to giving students opportunities to participate in volunteerism, he said.

He hopes by becoming a GenerationON district, Mt. Vernon will inspire students to become active in their community.

Smith said teachers and staff are excited about wrapping community service into their lessons, and many have agreed to participate in an upcoming training session she’s hosting.

Students, she said, don’t always understand being a philanthropist can start early. GenerationON aims to show them they can give back now.

“It’s been good for our students and good for the community,” she said. “If they see themselves as change-makers, they’re more engaged in what they do, they’re excited about coming to school, and they’re proud of their accomplishments.”

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Samm Quinn is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3275 or squinn@greenfieldreporter.com.