Schools are boosting efforts to help students volunteer in their communities. Here’s how.

Schools throughout Butler County require or encourage students to volunteer in their communities to graduate, and some have found unique ways to energize those involved.

For the first time, Badin High School set up a “one-stop shopping” community service fair this week that allowed students to pick among dozens of organizations where they can volunteer.

The Thursday event at the Hamilton high school saw Badin sophomores and juniors questioning representatives from more than 50 local social service and other agencies, picking up information and some deciding on the spot to sign up to volunteer during next school year.

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Students “will choose one of these agencies to partner with. Our hope is that we have a variety of agencies that they can find an issue they are passionate about that will best use their gifts to serve our community,” said Megan Halverson, the school’s service coordinator.

Community service in recent years has become more important for all Ohio schools.

For public school systems, recent changes to state-mandated graduation requirements included adding a “work/service” option allowing high school seniors who have met other standards to receive a diploma.

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Among local districts, Kings schools in southern Warren County has long been a leader in requiring the most community service hours for students as a stipulation for graduating.

Kings mandates that students complete 50 hours of community service by the end of their senior year, said Dawn Gould, spokeswoman for the district.

“At least 25 of those hours must be from any organization outside of Kings. And students may accumulate 25 hours by volunteering inside of the district such as tutoring/mentoring,” said Gould.

“We believe that by giving students an opportunity to serve that they will find a purpose for a lifetime of serving others through their talents and interests.”

While Hamilton High School has no community service graduation requirement, such volunteer work is strongly encouraged, said district spokesperson Joni Copas. Many of the school’s academic and other clubs mandate volunteering out in the community to participate.

Hamilton seniors are also honored with a special pin on their graduation gown for completing 60 hours of community service, said Copas.

At Ross High School, each student’s homeroom class must complete a community service project, which in the past has included making blankets for dialysis patients and collecting pop tabs to support Ronald McDonald House, said principal Brian Martin.

Most of the social assistance agencies at Badin were from Butler County but some traveled from farther away in hopes of getting Badin students, whose enrollment includes students throughout the area, to sign on as volunteers.

Dirk Allen, spokesperson for Badin, said community service is part of the foundation of the school, whose motto is “Serving God, Serving Others.”

“We want our students to be of great service to others in the world around them,” said Allen.

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Badin sophomore Jessica Stidham said she liked the new way of exploring and signing up for community service hours.

“I really appreciate this because I love (community) service and I’ve always wanted to find new places to serve,” said Stidham.

Officials from participating agencies also liked the new approach.

“It’s absolutely wonderful and it gives students an opportunity to see what agencies are out there that they can volunteer with and it gives agencies an opportunity to network with the kids,” said Michelle Merrett, board member with Hamilton Urban Gardens.

The first-time event won’t be the last, said Badin officials.

“We will definitely be doing this next year,” said Halverson. “We are thrilled with the participation and the energy in the room.”

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