For Long, community service essential to education

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Natchez High School sophomore Hillarie Long believes education and community service go hand in hand. Long, 15, was recently appointed by teachers and counselors as acting president of the newly-formed Natchez-Adams County chapter of the Learn and Serve Lighthouse Partnership.

The partnership is a national program that combines community service with an academic education to develop a sense of purpose and citizenship in students.

Long said the program’s name is appropriate because of the strong connection between education and community service.

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&uot;We’re young people learning to give back to our community,&uot; she said.

Growing up as the daughter of a social worker, Long said she has always been aware of the importance of helping others, as well as the satisfaction it brings.

But, a mission trip to Mexico over the summer motivated Long to search for ways to contribute to her own community.

&uot;When I came back, I said now what can I do in Natchez?&uot; Long said.

Plenty. A recent inductee into the Mississippi Ambassadors Growing in Service (MAGS) program and the Mayor’s Youth Council, Long is also a peer mediator, a member of the Youth Action Council, a youth legislator and a member of the service-oriented Key Club.

Still, her numerous activities seem more of a privilege than a responsibility, Long said, especially the MAGS program.

For their first meeting, more than 30 student ambassadors gathered at a camp outside Jackson to participate in trust-building activities and service projects, including visiting a local assisted living home.

&uot;That’s one of the best things — that weekend — that’s ever happened to me,&uot; she said. &uot;I can’t wait until the next one.&uot;

Following Christmas break, the ambassadors will meet one weekend a month for a service project, Long said.

Each ambassador is required to complete one individual service project in their area, and Long said she is already searching for ideas.

Similar to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, where an individual adopts a family in need for the holidays, Long said she believes some families could be helped during other months of the year, like extra help buying school uniforms.

Long said she is also looking forward to the MAGS conference in the spring when she will introduce younger students to the rewards of community service.

&uot;When they’re young, they want to do stuff, and they see older kids doing it and they want to be like them,&uot; Long said.

Long is the daughter of Kathleen Long of Natchez and Roy Cummings of Mobile, Ala.