At Cannon School, all students in grades 9-12 must put in at least 40 hours of "service learning," or volunteer time, over the course of four years in order to graduate.
Juniors Mallory Chepke and Shelby Dyl, both 17 and from Davidson, said they've already easily surpassed that number by helping at their churches and volunteering with area nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
Most recently, the duo led an effort at their school for HeroBox, a two-year-old national nonprofit that "sponsors" deployed U.S. soldiers and sends moral support via customized care packages and letters.
About 350 students and teachers contributed to the four-month project. They helped fill and send 30 care packages to soldiers serving in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Boxes were filled everything from Sports Illustrated magazines, DVDs and Sudoku puzzles to hygiene products, beef jerky other familiar snacks. Some people sent pictures, wrote personal letters and made CDs for their soldier.
Dyl decided to do something for the troops after witnessing soldiers reuniting with family members while she was traveling during Christmas vacation.
"They're out there risking their lives for us everyday, so I thought we should do something for them," said Dyl.
After a little online research, she decided on HeroBox and recruited Chepke for help.
"I've always been passionate about helping others," said Chepke. "The thought of helping people and bringing them joy made it all worth it. You can't wait for someone else to make a difference."
Tim Aldridge's advising, which is similar to a homeroom class, brought in the most items. The upper school science teacher sent out an e-mail to his students and their parents asking for help. He lives in Concord, graduated from Mount Pleasant High School and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1977-2002 in Iceland and Germany.
"I just told them how, from personal experience, I have seen how getting one of these care packages can make a soldier's day," Aldridge said.
After gathering various items for about a week, students packed the boxes and shipped them in March.
Both girls said the project was a rewarding experience, and they plan to repeat the event next year.