University High School is known as a place of education and companionship to its students, but for people in the community it has become a source of volunteers and support. Although it’s a graduation requirement for students to volunteer, there is an abundance of students who have gone above and beyond these requirements.
One award-winning program that University offers is Students Against Destructive Decisions or SADD. According to the Principal Douglas Guthrie, SADD is all about awareness. “SADD is meant to spread awareness of adolescent issues such as substance abuse and violence,” he says. This is an important resource for many students struggling with issues they may not feel comfortable talking to their parents about. Blood drives have also become a staple at the school thanks to Student Government. The Big Red Bus will come to campus allowing students and faculty can donate during school hours. It’s a great help to the community, and gives the students a chance to make a difference without having to travel out of their way.
In collaboration with the University of Central Florida, University High School holds a Hispanic Heritage free concert series. “The series spreads awareness of Hispanic culture by providing free musical performances to the general public,” says Guthrie. One student group has created an unique club known as Cougars Care Sew Much. The club knits and sews blankets and quilts to donate to other organizations in need. This is not only a fun way to pass time to students, but it fills a vital need for many organizations who cater to the less fortunate and homeless.
The students not only help the community, but their fellow schools as well. The Student Government Association and the Drama Department have recently reached out to Riverdale Elementary School to read and act out stories for the younger students on a regular basis.
All the volunteer efforts made by the students are mutually beneficial. “Our students learn the importance of helping others, and by doing so, gain a deeper understanding of the potential that they have and how every contribution counts,” says Guthrie. “Putting their talents and time to use serving others builds self esteem in students, which ultimately keeps them away from negative influences.”
The result is a student body striving to build a better community for past, present and future University High School Cougars.
Article by Stephanie Osman