| Ryan Feyre
AGAWAM – Volunteers from the Agawam High School National Honors Society (NHS), in partnership with the Agawam Department of Public Works (DPW) recently marked 351 storm drains throughout the community.
By labeling storm drain inlets with the title, “No Dumping, Drains to Stream,” residents and businesses are reminded to take care of the environment, and not dump any extra liquids or chemicals inside the drains.
NHS president David Dagenais, who has many contacts with the DPW, came up with this idea after speaking with NHS Advisor Mary Bonavita about socially-distanced ways in which the volunteers can help the community.
“We were talking to David about our struggle to find activities to do with NHS that would keep us socially-distanced,” said Bonavita. “A lot of our charity events that we normally volunteer with were cancelled.”
According to Bonavita, 40 NHS students participated in this storm drain activity, which took around two to three hours to complete. Students were given 10 days to mark the drains, and were provided maps of Agawam by the DPW so they knew where all of the drains were located.
“I’ve always enjoyed helping and learning about the environment,” said Dagenais. “A lot of work goes into keeping our streets flood-free and our drinking water clean.”
The NHS is also currently working with Agawam Public Schools’ Social and Emotional Director, Marlene DeJesus, to create a mentoring program where an NHS member pairs up with a student from a younger grade so a connection with the community can still be felt, according to Andrea Persson, another advisor for NHS.
“Our students also made holiday cards that Ms. Persson and I distributed to all of the buildings at Heritage Hall,” said Bonavita. “And we also brought some to the veterans’ home in Holyoke.”
Because remote learning has been such an obstacle for everyone, NHS students have also created online tutorial videos that explain certain aspects of the new technology for remote learning. Those are all posted online for parents and students who are struggling with that aspect of learning right now.
“The number one goal we have right now is to maintain that connection,” said Bonavita. “In previous years, it just worked out so well that our students were volunteering all over town.”
Despite the pandemic, NHS students are still finding ways to help out the community all over Agawam. They have assisted with a used toy drive around Christmas, and they also continue to offer tutoring lessons virtually over Zoom.
“We’re trying our best to maintain that community tithe,” said Bonavita. “We’re just open to, if anyone has a need, we’re always interested in what we can do to help.”
Since many events have been cancelled, NHS students are not required to obtain the usual 40 hours of community service, which is a rule that will be implemented just for this year, according to Bonavita. Students are instead required to complete a monthly project throughout the school year.