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Instead Of PE, These Students Get Credit For Helping Their Community

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Tim Hitzler is one of the many teachers who are making a real difference in the lives of their students. He works at the Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa, and his school has just rolled out a new program that keeps students active and helps the community at the same time. Instead of going to traditional physical education classes, high school students at the Alternative Learning Center are able to assist the elderly and disabled with yard work to earn school credits. This unconventional program is having a huge impact on the students and the community members who benefit from their hard work.

One Amazing School

As its name suggests, the Alternative Learning Center is a non-traditional high school. All of the students there are either juniors and seniors, and the school focuses on helping at-risk students get the credits they need to graduate. At other schools, these students may have been close to dropping out.

Students at the Alternative Learning Center are given individualized plans for reaching graduation one step at a time. Each year, students at this unique school spend the last two weeks of the school year earning physical education credits in unconventional ways. Some students volunteer in a garden owned by the school, and other students do yardwork for local people who are elderly or disabled.

Finding People To Help

If a student wants to volunteer in the community, all he or she has to do is sign up. Then, Mr. Hitzler, who teaches social studies during the rest of the year, pairs each student with a member of the community who can use some help. When community members want to participate in the program, they give Mr. Hitzler a call, and he does the rest of the leg work. The school provides transportation and tools to help the students get the job done. Students are given different tasks to complete based on the needs of the homeowner they have been paired with.

Many people need help with simple tasks like cutting grass, pruning shrubs, and cleaning gutters. There is no limit to what the students are able to accomplish for their community. If a student doesn’t know how to complete a task, it is viewed as a learning opportunity. Students are able to spend the last two weeks of the school year going back to their assigned house until the job is finished. Each year, more and more students sign up to earn their physical education credits in this very unusual way.

Impact On The Community

Everyone who is involved in this unique program benefits. The students burn plenty of calories, and they also get to feel the joy of helping someone. It is a much-needed self-esteem boost for the students, many of whom have faced some sort of adversity in life, to learn a skill and use it to benefit others. The community members who get their yard work completed get the satisfaction of a clean yard, and they also get to enjoy the company of a young person. Some of the students have even formed friendships with the people they were assigned to.

Although the Alternative Learning Center has been in existence for more than four years, the school’s story has gained a lot of attention recently. Why? The story first got attention on the Internet when a Dubuque news station called KWWL ran a news segment about it. Since then, people have been sharing the story like crazy. Other news stations have picked it up, and Mr. Hitzler participated in many interviews explaining the school’s way of blending physical education with community outreach. This heartwarming story shows that a little kindness can go a long way.


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