Alternative program sends students into community

Projects range from building pen for humane sociey to creating library mural

Posted: Friday, May 19, 2000

Allen Anderson, a junior at Juneau-Douglas High School, found it hard to raise money for a fenced outdoor puppy pen at Gastineau Humane Society.

When he called people, he'd mention the school program he's in, the project's benefits, even play the puppy card.

``The guy was like, `Oh,''' Anderson said of the lukewarm reaction he'd get.

In the end, Anderson and co-workers Alex Robinson and Daniel Derrick Benjamin Brown Jr. put in their own money and borrowed some from a friend. Now they've got a bit more motivation to raise funds.

Anderson and other students publicly presented their work Thursday. Juniors in Choosing Healthy Options In Cooperative Education, a three-year alternative program, are required to do a project that helps the community.

The new space at Gastineau Humane Society will allow puppies to be puppies, said kennel supervisor Becky Hinman.

Other student projects included two dugouts at Melvin Park, target frames and distance markers at the Montana Creek rifle range, a stunt platform at the skate park, a bench at Marine Park, and a mural at Harborview Elementary library.

Students also made a CHOICE yearbook, improved the CHOICE computer lab, and organized a high school poetry reading and a dance to help the food bank.

One of the biggest challenges students faced was talking to people. They learned what it's like to call businesses for donations or price quotes, get permits from the city, get ideas shot down by authorities, and work together.

Wanda Bearfield said it wasn't that hard to put together a yearbook because she worked with friends.

``Last year, (juniors) said it was hard working with friends because if they slacked you couldn't be mean to them,'' she said. ``But they didn't slack.''

Malcolm Tullis -- who is organizing a May 28 dance at the yacht club to raise money and canned food for the food bank -- said it helped to have an adult call businesses to find a venue.

``If a kid calls them, it's like `Pshaw,''' said Tullis, who nonetheless talked the yacht club board into halving the rental fee.

On the other hand, there are times when a kid can communicate best. As skateboarders thundered past, teachers and students were straining in the cavernous skate park Thursday to hear Marlon Lumba talk about a platform he built.

``Can I ask you to hold up for five minutes?'' CHOICE teacher Laury Scandling fruitlessly asked.

``Chill, dudes,'' Lumba said, and everything quieted.

Lumba's father spent $200 on materials, and Lumba worked for about 15 hours to build the low wooden box with a sheetmetal covering. The frayed skeleton of a two-year-old box, another CHOICE project, lay nearby like a species that didn't survive natural selection.

``There's really a need for it here, because all the boxes that were here got destroyed or vandalized,'' Lumba said.

Students worked on the projects one day a week in school since February. ``But other than that we have to take a lot of our own time to do it,'' said Krista Rusaw, who painted a mural with Natalie Jorgensen and Cameron Sorrell.

Harborview Principal Bob Dye asked them to use children's books as their subject.

``The principal wanted something that the kids would recognize. The kids would come out of the classroom to watch us paint,'' Jorgensen said.

``I think it's worth it. It was actually a lot of fun doing it,'' she said.

``Especially when she painted my hair,'' Rusaw added.

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