Friday, August 08, 2008

What about Community Service? A look at CERT programs

A relatively new requirement for graduation in New Jersey, and many other states, is community service. Well, I am not sure if it is required statewide, but it certainly seems to be in our community.

Actually, home schooling provides more time for diverse community service opportunities. The next several posts will showcase different kinds of community service projects a homeschooled student might consider.

Our community just had an emergency drill for first responders all over the county that simulated the crash of a small plane in a field behind the local high school.

Members of the high school drama group participated in this drill by portraying the dead and injured. But among the responders and CERT (Community Emergency Response Teams - a partner of CitizenCorps, a US government initiative to get all Americans to volunteer and serve) there were only two young people - you guessed it, they were homeschooled.

CERT programs are sponsored by city, state, and local emergency management agencies. Using the training learned in the classroom and during exercises, CERT members can assist others in their neighborhood or workplace following an event when professional responders are not immediately available to help. If a disaster happens that overwhelms local response capability, CERT members can apply the training learned in the classroom and during exercises to give critical support to their family, loved ones, neighbors or associates in their immediate area until help arrives.

CERT members can also assist with non-emergency projects that improve the safety of the community, or increase awareness of emergency preparedness resources. For example, our whole family participated in "National Night Out", a crime and drug prevention event in the parking lots of the municipal complex/police department featuring various games, music, contests, vendors, community organizations, fire department demonstrations and donated food and snacks by local merchants. My son manned a game booth and dispensed prizes to the kids who played.

High school aged students may take the CERT training, but cannot be certified or deployed until they are 18. I heartily recommend CERT training for every student, for the discipline, first aid and emergency training and the opportunity to learn about the careers of firefighters, police and EMS workers at the local and county levels.

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