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Williamsport High senior finds passion through service

June 20, 2008|By JANET HEIM

WILLIAMSPORT -- Marcus Peterson has discovered a passion through his volunteer service - the Civil Air Patrol.

What will really make the Williamsport High School rising senior fly, though, are the many hours he's volunteered to the patrol and another favorite organization, Camp Joy El in Greencastle, Pa.

Marcus, 16, who lives in Boonsboro, attends Williamsport High School with special permission because his mother is an English teacher there.

A graduation requirement for Washington County Public Schools students is that students complete 75 hours of Student Service Learning hours. They earn 45 of those hours in middle school.

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After they complete eighth grade, they can begin accruing the remaining 30 required to graduate. At the end of his junior year, Marcus had racked up 555 SSL hours, Williamsport High School guidance counselor Randy Longnecker said.

Marcus said he probably has done at least another 100 volunteer hours that aren't accounted for, but the trick is in completing the required paperwork, the standard yellow SSL form.

According to the form, Student Service Learning is "a teaching method that combines meaningful service to the community with curriculum-based learning." A three-step approach requires students to outline the preparation, action and reflection on their service.

Marcus said a fellow student introduced him to the Civil Air Patrol (CAP). It seemed like a good fit for Marcus, who is interested in a career in the military.

The CAP is modeled after the values, leadership techniques and drills of the U.S. Air Force. Marcus said he plans to join the Air National Guard and attend Cedarville University in Ohio, where his parents and sister have gone. He wants to major in aeronautical, civil or electrical engineering.

Marcus, who said he hopes to earn his pilot's license through CAP, considers being involved with CAP a "privilege."

"It's very enriching," he said. "It keeps me learning new things outside school."

Besides teaching the younger cadets, Marcus takes tests to advance in rank. He has one test to take before he can become an officer. In the lower ranks, testing is on leadership, aerospace education and physical fitness, with the tests increasing in difficulty with rank.

Through CAP, Marcus has had the opportunity to fly a glider, an aluminum plane that is towed behind a powered plane to gliding altitude, then released to glide.

His other passion is Camp Joy El. Marcus started going there as a camper when he was in third grade, and has volunteered there for the past three summers.

Helping clean the campgrounds and kitchen for the season and assisting with counselor training are among his responsibilities.

"No matter what you do, it helps you out with discipline, leadership, a whole bunch of things," Marcus said.

At school, Marcus is involved with the Student Government Association and is on the golf and tennis teams.

Marcus was selected for a leadership class through Hagerstown Community College's Essence Program. He'll take classes there in the fall, as well as Advanced Placement statistics, psychology and language at Williamsport.

Marcus also works at Best Buy, helps around the house and works on the sound system in his truck. He hunts with his father and goes camping, hiking and ATV riding.

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