Giancarlo Blanco (pictured), a member of the St. Augustine High School Class of 2021, helps to clear excess vegetation at Otay Lakes County Park.
The entire school community, more than 730 boys plus the entire faculty, participated in a schoolwide “Day of Service” on Dec. 3.
Students were assigned by ZIP code to one of five locations, including Presidio Park, Sweetwater Summit Regional Park, Otay Lakes County Park, Oakoasis County Preserve, and Sage Hill in Escondido. The students reported to their assigned site at 8 a.m. and engaged in beautification work until their dismissal at noon.
Among other tasks, the students painted, did trail work, mulched, raked pine needles, pruned branches and cleared brush. At the site in Escondido, they broke down a 1.5-mile split rail fence and built a new one.
“I think it is important for them not only to be outdoors and in nature, but we have also found that the boys pick up some important life skills doing the various tasks they are assigned,” said Augustinian Father Maxime Villeneuve, chaplain of St. Augustine High School. “Some do not know how to properly use simple hand tools, and one day these young men will lead houses of their own and potentially be fathers themselves. It is important to build their self-confidence that they can complete and succeed in projects themselves.”
The Day of Service is not a vacation day, nor was it an optional event that students could choose whether or not to attend. Rather, it was treated as a regular school day, albeit one that took place entirely off-campus and ended with early dismissal. Through their participation, students earned four hours toward their annual 25-hour community service requirement.
The school has organized a Day of Service a few times over the years, but this was the first time that such a day was held for a second year in a row.
“The response has been overwhelming positive and we hope to do it again next year,” said Father Villeneuve. “We want this to be a yearly experience at Saints.”