Herald Photos / Provided
GIVING  — Students at Taylor Elementary work in the school gym during last year’s service day.
Herald Photos / Provided GIVING — Students at Taylor Elementary work in the school gym during last year’s service day.
For the second year, Taylor School Corporation effectively closed its doors to allow students the chance to get involved in their community. 

On Tuesday, instead of opening books or beginning a test, the students and staff loaded up on buses for a different type of learning.

The idea stemmed from TSC Superintendent Chris Smith visiting Indiana State University two years ago. 

“I took my daughter two years ago to Indiana State and went through the orientation and what they do. They’re the number one university in America for community service. Dr. Linda Maule said when the students leave Indiana State, they want them to go to their community and be involved. So I thought it would be awesome for K through 12,” said Smith. “I wondered if we could do something like Indiana State.”

Indiana State charters 45 buses for their service day. Taylor isn’t quite that big, but its impact was felt across Howard County in its partnership with United Way of Kokomo.

“There were about 16 organizations we went to, and at each location we did multiple things, especially for the City of Kokomo and the library. We went to the Russiaville, South Branch, and Main branches (of the library). The Kokomo Humane Society and Mental Health America had a lot of projects,” said United Way Communications Director Bailey Kelly. “The projects are tailored to the students and their age group. We try to match the project to age appropriateness, what they feel comfortable doing, and something that may impact them.”

Smith said just more than 1,400 individuals poured into the community on Tuesday, working in locations such as Jackson Morrow Park, Bona Vista, Kokomo Municipal Stadium, Kokomo Humane Society, Mental Health America, Howard Haven, and various neighborhoods.

The second year was a no-brainer for the school corporation, as after the service day in 2016, just a week later the tornadoes hit, and the students were hungry to continue helping their community.

“It’s so great, and Taylor really loves doing this. The kids enjoyed doing it last year. Taylor’s Athletic Director Steve Dishon said that he had a lot of students come up to him right after the event and say they wanted to do it again in the fall,” Kelly said.

So they did.

“Last year we got split up into groups. Some of us would go to the Humane Society. Some went to the park to pick up litter. My group went to Carver Center, and what we did there was we cleaned the walls, picked up trash, and cleaned the floors. It was cool because we were able to interact with the people there and find out how much they liked being there. They also liked how the school was taking part in local things and helping pick up. It was really fun,” said Brooke Morris, a junior at Taylor High School. “It’s so nice to give back to the community. I’m just going to have fun no matter where I go because I get to interact with people and help pick up around the community.”

Brooke’s younger sister, Rylee, also looked forward to the service day this year. 

“At the elementary (last year), we all got red T-shirts that said ‘Taylor Community Day.’ We all went into the gym, and it was really fun because they made it girls versus boys. We stacked papers together and put them in a folder. The ones who got the most done in the time limit got candy, and the girls won. They played music, and so we got to dance around while we put the folders in. It was a lot of fun,” Rylee said. “I was excited for this year because I haven’t done it with the middle school before. In elementary, we stayed at the school, so this was my first time going out doing stuff in the community, not just at the school.”

Kelly said it’s great the school loves giving back in this manner. She said it show the kids are willing to go out and give back, and, hopefully by demonstrating to the students what service is, they’ll learn about it and continue to act.