EPWORTH, Iowa — The students at Western Dubuque High School did their learning a little differently on Wednesday morning.
The school had its Bobcat Service Day, during which students participated in more than 50 service projects throughout the community and beyond. Teams also went to other cities including Dubuque, Peosta, Cascade and Dyersville.
“It’s a ripple effect,” Principal Jacob Feldmann said of the students’ work on Bobcat Service Day. “Hopefully, the students learn something from today, and hopefully, they’ll continue their work after they leave the school. It’s still a classroom setting — it’s just outside today.”
This was the fourth year that the school has done its biannual Service Day, though the past several were canceled or changed due to COVID-19. Western Dubuque School District’s middle and elementary schools also participated in activities Wednesday, though on a smaller scale than the high school.
Feldmann added that he hopes the service day can continue growing until all students in the county participate in service projects together on a dedicated day. He also said he stresses to Western Dubuque students that community service is important every day, not just on Service Day.
“The idea is that this is not just today, but today gives a celebration of the students’ service,” Feldmann said.
Activities for the day included making blankets for the homeless, cleaning up parks, making toys for dogs at Dubuque Regional Humane Society and holding mobile food pantries across the county.
Sophomore Josie Hatcher was one of the students who planned the first mini-Dance Marathon that took place on Service Day. She said she and about 40 classmates take a service-learning class in which the idea for the event grew.
People could donate to the Dance Marathon online, and all proceeds went to University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City. Josie said she loves kids, and she wanted to find a way for her community service to benefit children.
“You don’t always get to see the impact you make,” she said. “So when you can see the impact you make right in front of you, that’s something that’s really cool.”
Camdyn Reisner, of Dubuque, celebrated her 15th birthday by making an appearance at the Dance Marathon. Camdyn, who has physical and cognitive delays, has been going to the Stead Family Children’s Hospital her whole life for multiple surgeries and treatments.
Her mother, Mandy Reisner, said the family loves attending Dance Marathons throughout the area and seeing people give back to the hospital that saved Camdyn’s life.
“Our way of giving back to the hospital is by sharing Camdyn’s story,” Mandy said. “We feel it’s the only way to keep honoring her recovery.”
Outside the high school, a mobile food pantry was set up for the community to pick up food, cleaning supplies and toiletries.
Freshman Madeline Klein, who was working at the pantry, said she was glad she could see the people she was helping in the community. She noted that students couldn’t go into the community for Service Day last fall, so they instead made cards for elderly community members.
“This is a really good opportunity for students to get out in the community and help others,” she said. “You can see the impact that you’re doing.”
In partnership with the nonprofit Resources Unite, some students also worked on projects in Dubuque. Resources Unite Director Josh Jasper said 14 stations were set up in Dubuque that were geared toward the people the organization serves, ranging from mobile food pantries to bringing dress clothes to those with job interviews.
Jasper said Resources Unite has partnered with Western Dubuque schools in the past on projects, and he hopes that providing services to those in need broadens the horizons of the students.
He added that he tells students that their primary mission on Service Day is to make a connection with someone they are helping.
“It’s one thing to serve a meal,” Jasper said. “It’s a whole other thing to break bread with that person.”