Park City School District students earn the inaugural Park City Service Award
While Park City School District’s 2019-2020 school year will be remembered for ending early due to the novel coronavirus, it will also go down in local history for the debut of the Park City Student Service Award.
The award, which was created by Katie McGuire, who will be a senior at Park City High School, in partnership with Park City Education Foundation, recognizes students in grades 9-12 who volunteer for local nonprofits. Students who clock 50 or more hours a year receive certificates for each of those years.
In addition, the seniors who have reached 200-plus hours of service are recognized with a service honor cord, which signifies the different extracurricular clubs, organizations and services a student has participated in during their high school years, and is worn over graduation gowns.
The five 2020 graduates who earned cords are Jack Henry, Noah Nasser, Caroline Powell, Courtney Solomon and Alta Sweet Tabar.
“Not every club or organization is recognized with cords, so I was honored to have the opportunity to provide the cords to these seniors,” said McGuire, the president of the National Charity League Summit County Branch and member of UserveUtah, the state’s council for volunteerism.
In addition, Henry and Powell, who were the top volunteers, received $1,000 from the McGuire Family Foundation to donate to a nonprofit organization of their choice, according to McGuire.
While efforts to contact Henry went unanswered, Powell spoke with The Park Record and said she plans to donate the money to Recycle Utah, the nonprofit she has volunteered at since she was a freshman.
“My mom was the one that pushed me to find a nonprofit to work for in the summer in the first place, because my older sister had done it and she had some cool experiences,” Powell said. “After doing research I decided to work for Recycle Utah, because I’ve always loved the environment. And living in Park City you see how important the environment is to us.”
Powell not only learned the different processes of recycling. She also helped the nonprofit throw fundraisers and events.
“Working at Recycle Utah taught me to listen and open up to people,” she said. “It also helped me recognize the times that I should step back and gauge what is important in my life. That will help me in future as I find a career that would adhere to my morals.”
The idea for the Park City Service Award germinated in McGuire’s mind as she attended her older sister Sarah’s graduation from Park City High School three years ago.
“I noticed there were no awards for volunteering, and at the time we were very involved in the National Charity League,” McGuire said. “When I started attending Park City High School in my sophomore year, I had developed more interest in getting involved in the Park City community, more than I had ever been.”
McGuire met with Dr. Jill Gildea, Park City School District superintendent, last summer to discuss the creation of the award.
“Dr. Gildea gave us tons of ideas and told us her former school had a service award,” McGuire said. “So I decided I wanted to create a student service award, and began researching other service awards at other schools.”
Through her research, McGuire came up with the award’s criteria.
“Each year students need to clock in at least 50 hours, so by the end of their senior year, they need to have at least 200 hours,” she said. “Students also can’t just volunteer 200 hours in one year. They will become ineligible for the award if they haven’t volunteered for at least 50 hours in the past year.”
After establishing the award, McGuire worked with the Park City Education Foundation to donate the funding for the award, which covers the costs of the certificates, cords and $1,000.
“We have been thrilled to work with Katie on this award,” said Abby McNulty, Park City Education Foundation executive director. “One of our priorities is to foster and include student voice in education, and this has been an impactful way to do that. The fact that this award promotes and celebrates student volunteerism is so meaningful in our town, with our culture of supporting numerous nonprofits. For sure, PCEF could not do the work we do without student volunteers.”
Thirty students applied for the award this year, McGuire said.
Five seniors earned cords, and the other 20 students, who were in grades 9 through 11, earned certificates, she said.
“I didn’t know how many would apply,” she said. “I hope more people will apply in the future.”
McGuire’s love for volunteering stems from service trips she took to Nicaragua and South Africa with her uncle, who was a Catholic priest.
“I saw the poverty in those areas, and began to understand how fortunate I was to have what I have,” she said. “I wanted to give back to those who are not as fortunate as I am.”
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