EL RIO : Students Into Community Service

Students at Rio Del Valle School hit the books and the streets this summer.

Every Thursday during the four-week summer school, 120 seventh- and eighth-graders put away their math and science books and pounded the pavement in El Rio, collecting food door-to-door and painting over graffiti.

More than 1,200 pounds of food were collected and donated to Food Share, a Ventura County food bank, and 19 graffiti-scarred walls were repainted, said Rebecca Barbetti, a teacher at the school.

Barbetti came up with the program after reading a newspaper item about a school district that required 10 hours of community service for graduation.

"I think it's a great idea," said Barbetti, who is trying to get the program implemented for the regular school year.

When students first heard about the program at the start of summer school, "they saw it as a way to get out of class," Barbetti said.

"But after a couple of weeks, when they saw how much food we were getting, they absolutely got into helping people and making a difference in the community."

During summer school, which ended Wednesday, students came in every day with updates on whether their freshly painted walls were still free of graffiti.

"They took pride in it," Barbetti said.

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