Unaka High School receives state-level service award

Community service is often a requirement for many college scholarships or even admission, but for some school programs, service is its own reward, and these schools hope to instill these values in their children as early as possible.

Students came to Unaka High School last Monday with surprise news: the student body had received a state-level award for their dedication to community service.

Kayla Clawson, a teacher at Unaka, said she and the principal, Betsy Oliver, went to Franklin, Tenn., to receive the School Service Seal of Approval.

“Our kids do a lot of volunteering,” Clawson said. “This is a great opportunity for our kids.”

Though dozens of schools from across the state apply for the recognition, only a handful receive it each year.

“I am very proud of these students,” Oliver said. “These students know it is the right thing to do.”

Clawson said Unaka High School participates in a variety of activities throughout the year in service to the community. Among these programs include assisting Hunter Elementary’s Fall Festival, hosting a clothing drive (Ranger Pride, Clothing Stride), working alongside the Second Harvest Food Drive and many other programs.

“Service helps the students build character and leadership,” Clawson said. “It prepares students for post-secondary opportunities.”

Currently, the Tennessee Promise program, a program helping many students afford the cost of a college education after high school, has a service hour requirement in order to maintain.

Clawson said the service they do for their community goes beyond mere financial aid requirements, however.

“There is a constant cycle of service we are taking part in,” she said. “We are trying to make a difference in our community by providing this consistency.”

This dedication to community service has born fruit in other areas of Unaka as well. Oliver said, in the past seven years, more than one student from Unaka has become a Roan Mountain Scholar, one of the highest scholarships in the area.

“It’s the entire student body making this community a good place to live,” Oliver said.

Unaka does not plan to rest on its laurels, however. Oliver said the school plans to merge the community service focus with their academics, as well, starting with a sort of living museum.

“If the community has any needs, we are always willing to listen and assist the best we can,” she said.

“We want the students to know the feeling they get in return [for their service],” Clawson said. “For me, it is rewarding.”

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