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Forming the Future: Serving the 'least favored' at Central Catholic High

Central Catholic High School students participate in the 2016 Spring Service Day at the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. Pilot photo/courtesy Central Catholic High

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LAWRENCE -- Service to the underprivileged in society is a pillar at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence.

As soon as students enroll at the Marist high school they are encouraged to follow in the footsteps of St. Marcellin Champagnat, the founder of the Marist order, by focusing on serving others, especially "those who are excluded from the mainstream of society, and those whose material poverty leads them to be deprived also in relation to health, family life, school and education in values," according to Earline Tweedie, director of campus ministry.

According to Tweedie, students are required to perform a minimum of 24 hours of service "to the least favored" in society. She noted that "that this is not a very big time commitment to ask of students," but added that the hope is to "have the students catch a desire" to continue serving those in need.

It seems the desire to serve has certainly been caught by students at Central Catholic High School. Since 2006, when the service requirement was first introduced, students have logged in 135,343 hours of service.

"That adds up to 15-and-a-half years of service in that timeframe," Tweedie said.

She noted that the actual number of service hours is likely greater since "many students do not continue to log in their service hours after they have fulfilled their 24 hours of service."

Tweedie noted one student in particular who has logged in 755 hours during their four years at the school. "That's a school record," she said.

In order to help students decide how they wish to serve "the least favored," the school provides a host of service projects throughout the year. These are either direct, or face-to-face, service opportunities or indirect opportunities, such as fundraisers or food drives.

One of these direct service opportunities is the "Sunday Swim" program. Students partner with special needs children at an indoor swimming pool in North Reading and help them learn how to swim as three trained adult swim instructors provide lessons.

"The interaction of these students with the children with special needs has broken down barriers," Tweedie said.

She noted that, although students are only required to commit to a 10-week session, many Central Catholic High School students participate in the Sunday Swim all four years they are at the school.

Other service opportunities include such programs as "Catwalk 4Cancer," which this year raised over $21,000 for cancer research, and Marist Mentors, a student-run service organization that partners a mentor with a member of the Boys and Girls Club in Lawrence.

"It is a wonderful thing to see this large student body, with over 1300 students, get involved and to have a wide variety of activities that appeal to all," she said. "Everyone can find their niche."

"We have noticed that many students continue to serve because it helps them to figure out a lot about themselves," she continued. "After participating in a project that inspires them, they come back to the school feeling more energized and confident in the gifts they possess."

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