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November 12, 2008 > A rather different 'Make a Difference Day'

A rather different 'Make a Difference Day'

The ninth graders at Alsion Montessori Middle School thought they would be creating and building something. That was, after all, how one commonly conceives of making a positive contribution to society: setting foundations and raising beams. But these students were tasked for destruction. They had to cut. They had to slash.

For many years now, on the last weekend of October, Alsion has a Senior Service Weekend. It doesn't hurt that this weekend of community service neatly dovetails with the nationwide "Make a Difference Day."

Traditionally, Alsion seniors would head to Mexico and participate in Project Corazon. This endeavor, run by the Alsion Interact Club and its sponsor, the Mission San Jose Rotary Club, entails building a house for an indigent family in a day. The Alsion students, under the supervision and working beside Rotarians, would then hammer, saw and insulate for about eights hours straight. Every house the seniors have helped to build stands as a model for the ideal of putting service above self.

This year, however, no family will receive a new shelter - at least not with the assistance of Alsion students. Because of the effects of the current recession and concerns about personal safety, this year's group of nine seniors did not travel south of the border. Instead, they found themselves in a truly idyllic location where, surprisingly, they could still do some good.

On October 25, the Alsion seniors went to work at Lehi Recreation Park. The 1,000-acre property is situated 20 miles northwest of Santa Cruz and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It has redwood and mature oak forests, fire circles, campsites and trails; a place for gatherings, exercise and meditation. It is also a place that has become overgrown with weeds and brush.

Armed with shears and iron saws, the students cleared an uphill trail and the two-foot area surrounding it. This meant cutting weeds, sawing branches that were obstructing signs and picking up litter. They worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., making a part of Lehi Recreation Park safer for bikers, hikers and horseback riders.

The result was a fulfilling day of service, and definitely a different difference day.

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