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FOCUS: ORANGE COUNTY COMMUNITY NEWS | SADDLEBACK /
SOUTH BEACH: SOUTH COUNTY

Deadline Nears for Students' Good Deeds

April 25, 1998|VALERIE BURGHER

High school seniors in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District have less than a week to lend a hand to the Red Cross, read a book to a senior citizen or give batting tips to a Little Leaguer.

The countdown to graduation has begun, and to secure their mortarboards, students must complete the districtwide requirement to spend eight hours performing community service by May 1.

At El Toro High, about half the seniors have yet to turn in the paperwork showing they've met the requirement.

"To be honest, we're lagging a little bit behind past years," said Al Brandenburg, assistant principal for curriculum and guidance at El Toro High School.

"Our percentage is generally a little higher this time of year," Brandenburg said. "And a lot of them have actually completed it; they just simply haven't done the paperwork."

While the school has never had a student lose out on a diploma over the requirement, there have been students who were not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.

"There have been people who were nonbelievers," Brandenburg said, "and who were not able to walk with the graduating class."

The schools are hoping stragglers will find a way to fulfill their requirements at today's Community Connection Day, an annual event in which nonprofit organizations tap volunteers.

At Laguna Hills and Trabuco Hills high schools, the percentage of students who haven't fulfilled the requirement is closer to 40%, and at Mission Viejo only 35%, about average for this time of the year, according to the schools' guidance counselors.

"You do understand we're working with teenagers, right?" said Frank Manzo, Laguna Hills assistant principal. "The first portion after the deadline, we'll sit down and I figure out 'Is the form still in your backpack? Or is it something you simply don't know how to do?' "

Manzo's tone, however, changes with time. "Toward the end of May, it comes down to the last few who are dragging their feet. Then it's more along the lines of 'Do Mom and Dad know that you're not going to be walking down the line with the rest of your class?' " Manzo said.

For last-minute filers, such as Mission Viejo senior Julia Loya, the most difficult part is tracking down signatures from service organizers. Julia eventually will count her volunteer tutoring and baby-sitting toward her eight hours of service, but she said her time has been taken up with other high school activities. "Weightlifting, varsity, extracurricular. . . . I kind of have a busy schedule," the 17-year-old said. "But it'll get done . . . soon."

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