Twin fourth-graders are 'just awesome people'

CORONA DEL MAR — Some kids do it just for the free burgers.

But for Derek and Matthew Hanna, sweeping the lunch area at Harbor View Elementary School has become a point of pride.

The twin brothers volunteer extra play time each day to help the school custodian clean. They dart from napkin to straw, easing the burden of the janitors and setting an example for their classmates.

"It's good for the school," said Derek.

"It makes me feel good," added Matthew.

Recognizing their service, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District recently presented them a Starfish Award, which is given to students who have "made a difference by contributing a personal or collective effort for the benefit of others."

These fourth-graders come from a family of seven children, and their older brother started helping the Harbor View custodian clean up initially. Now that he's a fifth-grader and plays with his friends more, the twins have swept in to fill big brother's void.

"I have never had this kind of help," said Scott Matthews, the head custodian who has been on the job 33 years. "They're just awesome people."

Some other students will help briefly and occasionally, Matthews said, but the twins come reliably every day.

One motivation for such service is that students get "happy slips," a system designed to encourage good behavior. Students try to avoid "sad slips," which would result in forced pick-up duty. After earning five happy slips, students get an Islands restaurant gift certificate.

But the Hanna twins say that's only a perk. They spend the full 15 minutes of post-lunch play time with a broom and metal dustpan, when they could get a slip after just a couple minutes.

"You do it because you think it's right," said Matthew.

Before lunch they play with the other kids, and then eat a full lunch. Then they get to their volunteer work.

"The school gets dirty every day, so we clean it every day," Matthew said.

Mother Tracy Hanna said the idea may have started during their evening family prayers. Their father asks what the kids have done that was nice for someone that day.

Such service is above and beyond what's expected of the children, said principal Charlene Metoyer.

"They serve as an example without having to be pointed out," she said.

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