Tri-County Home Educators (TCHE) support group, located in upstate SC, became the world's first homeschool Key Club in February 2002 and has been active ever since.
Key Club is a service organization for highschoolers sponsored by the adult service organization Kiwanis Club. To be a member of the TCHE Key Club, students must be in 9th-12th grade, pay annual dues, and turn in records documenting 50 hours of service per year. This service should include service to home, homeschool group, and community. The club sponsors optional projects each month for all members to participate in.
"Jerry [my husband] and I were in leadership in the homeschool group, and we discovered that the young people were one of our best sources of energy, enthusiasm, and practical help with the nitty-gritty work: setting up for meetings, manning tables at meetings, collating information packets, greeting newcomers warmly, serving refreshments, and lots of other behind-the-scenes work," said Tandy Collier, the TCHE Key Club's parent advisor.
Abby Perrin, 13, of Mountain Rest, and Stella Welsh, 13, of Walhalla, pick out items in the Country Santa warehouse to go in a bag of presents for kids in an underprivileged family. The presents will be delivered by other Country Santa volunteers.
The Colliers thought it would be beneficial to more formally identify the group into a service club. "When I happened to mention the idea to [another parent], she suggested that we start a Key Club," said Mrs. Collier.
Mrs. Collier contacted Lt. Col. Bill Pearson of the Walhalla Kiwanis Club to ask if they would consider sponsoring the homeschoolers. She had to identify at least fifteen charter members, and fill out application papers. "It wasn't until we were almost chartered that we all realized we were going to be the first homeschool-based Key Club in the world," she said.
The Walhalla Kiwanis Club has been a great sponsor "not only in their initial enthusiastic endorsement of us as a homeschool club," Mrs. Collier said, "but in their ongoing support for our club since that time. We enjoy a couple of joint service projects per year [with them]."
Julia Ford, 15, of Walhalla, and Nakesha Saunders, 13, of Clemson, hold bags full of presents they've selected from the Country Santa warehouse for underprivileged children. Other volunteers will deliver the bags.
The club met in November 2001 to organize and officially chartered in February 2002. Jonathan Hubbard, now a freshman at Clemson University, served as the second president for the TCHE Key Club. Jonathan represented the homeschool club at several regional and district Key Club events with the public and private schools. "It's an opportunity to learn leadership and responsibility," he said. "It looks good for getting into college, and it's a wonderful way to get out and get something accomplished. It's a great opportunity to learn leadership and service and have fun."
The club has renovated playground equipment for a community park, put together activity kits for young patients at the children's hospital, blazed an educational walking trail for the U.S. Forest Service, held a bike safety workshop for younger homeschoolers, thrown a baby shower for the local crisis pregnancy center, helped with landscaping for a Habitat for Humanity house, sorted shoeboxes for Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child program, packed gift bags for needy children as part of the local Country Santa program, and volunteered at a Special Olympics event. Members have also participated in individual projects such as a walk-a-thon to benefit juvenile diabetes and reading books aloud onto cassette tapes for children who are patients at the hospital.
Mrs. Collier said the group found it hard to choose which projects to do. "I expected that it would be more difficult to find projects. Instead, we have to turn down many requests for help from outside individuals and agencies because we don't have the time to do all of the projects. It's hard to say 'no' to these people when it's obvious that these are genuine needs." The students choose which projects to participate in.
Humbolt County Homeschoolers in California became the second homeschool Key Club. According to Mike Downs, director of Key Club International, there are about half a dozen homeschool groups currently involved.
Grant Welsh, 15, of Walhalla, pumps up a basketball in the Country Santa warehouse. The basketball is one of many presents delivered to underprivileged children on Cristmas Eve by Country Santa volunteers.
Mrs. Collier's advice to homeschool groups wanting to start a Key Club is to not just find any Kiwanis Club, but a supportive one. "It makes a great difference," she said. She also recommends that student officers nominate themselves. "Then you end up with students who really want the job."
She says that groups should provide leadership training for the officers and committee persons. "The special sessions allow the club leaders to bond with one another and also give them a better idea of what they are supposed to do in their respective jobs."
As far as what the group does, Mrs. Collier recommends that the homeschoolers keep "an ear open to the community. Students will feel more needed and see the value in their service when they know they are meeting real needs in the community. The adult leadership of the group should find ways to recognize the contributions of the students - everyone likes to be appreciated. Have refreshments at meetings and a time to socialize afterwards - teenagers love to eat and talk." The TCHE Key Club also has projects during at least half of their regular meetings to make the meetings more productive.
Mrs. Collier highly recommends Key Club for homeschoolers. "My favorite part of being involved in Key Club is working with teens," she said. "I love their honesty, their zest for life, and their heart for serving others. I love their quirkiness and their energy, their unique ways of looking at life and the questions they ask with such boldness. I just love them."
Key Club International: 1-800-KIWANIS, www.keyclub.org
Tandy Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leanna Moxley: email@example.com
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