Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
By Janie Southard
Students to make the area a better place to live
  ST. MARYS - If someone does you a favor, most likely you'll want to pay it back. But another thought is that you can pass the kindness along and pay it forward, as advocated by such as Ben Franklin and Woody Hayes.
In fact Hayes said you can never pay it back; you can only pay it forward. A new project at Memorial High School is set to make its own mark paying forward. On April 30 the entire Memorial High School population (more than 800 students and teachers) will take on tasks around town that have the potential to make the area a better place to live and visit.
The one-day session is the brainchild of several people, including Kimberli Rompilla, president of the local chamber of commerce and member of the St. Marys Beautification Committee as well as school guidance staff Sue Zink, Bill Cheslock and Deb Hinckley, and others.
This week, class after class was shepherded into the Performing Arts Center at the high school to get the scoop on how they'll be helping pay it forward.
"This isn't just a thing of going out to the lake and picking up dead fish," Cheslock mused to his audience of sophomores, who were buzzing about a few projects of their own. "These aren't just the usual clean-up things. One of the nursing homes has requested a mural painted in a hallway. Some of the residents will help out ... We need to be a leader and be the first school around to go after this."
Area businesses are submitting projects for consideration like painting, washing windows, clearing walking paths at the canal, various other tasks similar to the accomplishments of the city's beautification committee during the past couple years.
Rompilla presented a PowerPoint that focused on those past city work- days showing students, National guardsmen, ODNR employees, service club members and others doing a variety of jobs, including painting the underside of the Spring Street bridge over the canal.
"These workdays have grown to include students and, this year, we thought a good idea would be to include all students," Rompilla said. "It will be a regular school day except that you'll be working four hours in the morning on these community projects. Student council will provide lunch and there will be a guest speaker in the afternoon."
The speaker will be Gary Broadbent, a boomerang champion, who will give a presentation and demonstrate his skills at the athletic field.
"Yes this is a large undertaking for us," Cheslock said following the assembly. "We'll all learn from this and I know the kids will be proud of their accomplishments when they look back on their school years ... It's just a matter of getting them started. I know they'll have fun once they get into it."
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