Teens Can Make A Difference: Annual Event Set For Oct. 27

2011's Student Council works at The Kell House during 2011's Teens Make a Difference Day. This year's Teens Make a Difference Day is Oct. 27.

Erica Bourland, Reporter

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It was a crisp Fall Saturday, a gentle breeze sweeping across Huff Street, the multicolored leaves swishing and ruffling in the wind. The Kell House Museum–the architectural homage to the early twentieth century–rose from crumbling downtown Wichita Falls, a two-story red house with delicate white railings and grand white columns.
Rider students were dropped off by their parents on the front lawn, some clutching garden tools–rakes, hoes, spades–in gloved hands.
Behind the house, Class President Tiffany Miller flitted around the yard, pink and blue shirts draped over one arm, white water bottles clutched in the other. She greeted her fellow volunteers, politely putting them to work–“look in the shed,” “unload the water from the back of the van,” “answer my phone and tell Stephanie to get her butt down here.”
When the volunteers were assembled, they grabbed a shirt and awaited further instruction. Two ladies from the Wichita County Heritage Society, who were trying to get the House back to what it was years ago, thanked the students immensely for volunteering and, smiling ear-to-ear, instructed them on what needed to be done.
The boys, clad in pink shirts, dug a hole in which to plant a tree, while the girls got down on their hands and knees and pulled weeds from the overgrown, brambly garden. Later, the students grabbed pairs of pruners and cut away the unattractive excess of ivy.
“I’ve never really done hands-on volunteering like that,” Miller reflected on the experience. “I’ve done things where all you have to do is show up. I had to get in there myself and get dirty, and I honestly hate getting dirty.”
In the weeks preceding Teens Make A Difference Day, Miller assembled the volunteers, asking her friends to join her team.
“I had to put myself out there and get people to do it with me,” Miller said. “That was really scary.”
The people she asked were all different; they came from diverse groups within the school.
“It was an interesting experience, getting to see these people who don’t really interact with one another come together,” Miller said. “They laughed and they talked, and we took pictures. We came together as students–as Raiders–to help better a small part of our community.”
According to Rider librarian and Student Council director Sally Mroczkowski, there were many teams that participated in Teens Make A Difference Day last year; each team volunteered in different places in the community. These included Faith Mission, Patsy’s House, and the Boys and Girls Club.
“If you have ideas and abilities and you don’t use them for other people, if you only use them for yourself, that’s selfish,” said Miller.
After the hard work was done at the Kell House, the students were rewarded with homemade chocolate chip cookies from the ladies of the Wichita County Heritage Society.
At this time, Miller had the opportunity to speak to the ladies.
“They told us they had already made the calls to find out what it would cost to restore their back lawn and the front of the house, and it was very, very pricey,” Miller said. “We saved them hundreds of dollars.”
As the students were leaving, a group of young girls dressed in elaborate costumes arrived for a tea party. One girl wore a blue dress and a blond wig, another a green top hat. They were portraying characters from Alice in Wonderland.
The Rider students were reminded of their own childhood and longed to join them. One girl jokingly declared that her seventeenth birthday party would be held at the Kell House. Another remembered going on a field trip to the House to meet “Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.”
In the faces of Alice and the Mad Hatter, the students were able to see what their efforts were worth. By helping restore the beauty of the back lawn, the community would be enriched in a multitude of diverse ways.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day,” Miller said. “So maybe we didn’t make a huge difference–maybe we didn’t feed 10,000 people or find the cure for cancer, but we improved a small part of our community, and I think those sorts of things have the potential to create a domino effect.”
Volunteers from all the Wichita Falls Jr. and Sr. high schools met at the Boys and Girls Club for lunch afterwards. Dozens of sweaty, hungry teens gathered to eat pizza and discuss their experiences.
“All you have to give up is your time,” Miller said. “And, yes, time is precious, but I guess that’s what makes it so much more meaningful. You’re giving up something that you can’t ever get back. And that feeling of accomplishment stays with you and stays with the people that you’re helping.”
To join the 2012 Teens Make A Difference Day, contact any member of Student Council or Mrs. Mroczkowski.

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