'Get involved more.' Some high school students opt to volunteer during winter break
Some high school seniors have chosen to use their time off this winter break to help make Long Island a better place to live.
Instead of relaxing during winter break, St. Anthony's High School student Charles Rios and fellow high school seniors volunteered Thursday on a housing project with hope as its foundation.
They painted and cleaned a Habitat for Humanity house in Huntington Station. The teens said they're receiving as much as they're giving by donating their time and labor.
"We need these experiences to see what our society looks like and how we can better it," Rios said.
"We want to take time out of our day, out of our break just to help our community," said student James Grillo.
The students' efforts were part of the Franciscan Volunteer Program. Teens from St. Anthony's High School in Melville, St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens and Notre Dame Regional High School in Missouri teamed up for a week of service projects.
They have been busy raking leaves, collecting food donations and sprucing up sites across the Island.
"I've been to a homeless shelter and a family shelter for homeless families, and it's just like really eye-opening for me because I live a very privileged life, and it's really helped me to realize how lucky I truly am," said Eve Jones, of the Notre Dame Regional High School.
"I think kids my age should get involved more, go outside, look at your community, see what needs to be done. We're always talking about change. Be the change you want to see in your community," said St. Anthony's High School student Chloe Caturano.
"We find that once they've done this, they're often doing service projects in college and thereafter. It's sparking the interest in them," said St. Anthony's alumni director Denise Creighton.
In a few weeks, a single mother, her 9-year-old daughter and grandmother will be moving into the house the students worked on. They said they feel proud to have a hand in making the family's American dream come true.
"It warms my heart to know that I can be able to be a part of something like this and give back to them," said student Paris Drain, of St. Francis Preparatory School.
St. Anthony's High School has participated in the Franciscan Volunteer program for 21 years.