Volunteering at the Jud C. Hickey Center for Alzheimer's Care is proving to be an eye-opening experience for students at the nearby Academy of Richmond County.
Students in the school's International Baccalaureate program have to complete 150 hours of projects to meet IB's Creativity, Action, Service component.
Several have chosen to volunteer at the Hickey center for the "service" part of that requirement, but Ernest Williams and JaQueria Rogers, both 16 and juniors, said they don't necessarily plan to stop taking part when they have met the requirement.
"It will probably take me until March to get the hours, but maybe I'll keep coming until the end of the school term (in May)," JaQueria said. "I don't want to just stop."
Added Ernest: "I haven't picked a day when I would stop coming."
JaQueria has used a wheelchair most of her life. Her spinal cord was damaged during a car accident when she was 18 months old. She said that motivates her to help others.
"I know when people help me, I just think it's awesome they would take time out of their schedule for me," she said. "I want to be able to help others. I just can't walk, but I feel I can do the same as anyone else."
On Tuesday at the center, JaQueria and Ernest started their time helping Alzheimer's patients find the right page in a song book while the group sang Christmas carols.
Other tasks that Richmond Academy IB students perform include taking out the trash and helping set up -- or, depending on your viewpoint, disassemble -- projects for the clients.
Nancy Calfee, the center's director, explained that staff members ask clients to do certain activities, such as stuffing envelopes or wrapping up silverware.
To ensure that the clients can do the tasks again on another day, the student volunteers often undo that work -- unstuff the envelopes and unwrap the silverware -- out of the clients' sight.
"They do quite a bit of work," Calfee said. "I've been very pleased. Anything we ask them to do, they do. They're so willing."
Charlie Tudor, the IB dean at Richmond Academy, said the school tries to find projects that students can do in the community. The Hickey center is just down the road from the school on Baker Street.
"We wouldn't know opportunities like this existed if it wasn't for (IB's service requirement)," Ernest said.
Added JaQueria: "I'm glad they're allowing us to work here, beyond giving us what we need (for school). In life, it's not all about getting."