What started as a way to better use their study hall time has blossomed into much more for some La Follette High School students.
The students signed up to be teacher or office assistants who do a variety of tasks, from tutoring to delivering passes to students who need to leave school. Other duties could include helping with PowerPoint presentations, photocopying, helping with a social dance class or sitting in the circle for the school’s restorative justice program. During downtimes when the students aren’t needed, they can use the time to study.
Senior Adama Bah has been an assistant since the second semester of her freshman year.
“Freshman year I decided I didn’t like study hall,” she said. “It turned out, I really liked (being an assistant) and I made a connection with a lot of the school secretaries.”
The students decide if they want the community service hours or academic credit. If students serve as an assistant for a block of time every day during a quarter, they earn a quarter credit, and if they do it every other day they get half of that.
“It’s a way for students who have study hall on their schedule to get community service hours or a small amount of credit,” said Rachel Donohue, administrative clerk at La Follette. “In study hall they would earn zero credit.”
Donohue, who is in charge of scheduling, said as of the start of the second semester, she has filled 556 different teacher assistant/office assistant positions, which means that some students could have held more than one position so far.
Grace Mullen, a junior who started the second semester of her freshman year, got involved because she wanted to be an assistant for Becky Bisbee, who is an administrative clerk, a job often referred to as a school secretary. Mullen said her dad worked with Bisbee so they knew each other.
Junior Alianna Alarcon didn’t start serving as an assistant until this year because she was taking some difficult classes and used her study halls for the classwork. This year she found the study hall too loud and said she doesn’t need it as much because she has fewer classes.
Assistants said they like that more staff members know them and can help them in other ways.
Bah said the task she will never forget is when she was a freshman and helped a senior find the J Wing, which is familiar to most students by that time.
Alarcon said what she remembers is being involved in a Secret Santa operation and seeing students’ reactions when they received gifts.
“They might have had a bad day and it was better when they got their gifts,” she said.
Junior Dezmond Jones just started as an assistant with the new semester and chose to receive community service hours. He has been working in the office, stuffing mailboxes and delivering passes. He said the toughest job has been finding teachers in the gym area because of the many places they can be.
Donahue said the staff members who work with the students not only form relationships with them but start to consider them part of their work staff. The students also learn what behaviors are required in a business setting.
Because students are seeing directly what happens in certain situations when parents don’t plan ahead, Donohue hopes she is grooming those who might have children in school themselves someday.
“It’s good for them to see what goes on in an office, kind of understand the workings of a school a little bit better,” Donohue said.