Fredericton students spend day giving back to the community

About 400 students from École Sainte-Anne in Fredericton helped with more than 20 projects around the city on Tuesday as a way to give back to the community.

Nearly 400 students put down pens, picked up shovels and paintbrushes as volunteers

Students at Ecole-Sainte-Anne in Fredericton had the day off on Tuesday to volunteer in the community 1:35

It was out of the classroom and into the community for some Fredericton high school students on Tuesday.

About 400 students from École Sainte-Anne helped with more than 20 different projects around the city as a way to give back to the community.

Several of the projects involved Habitat for Humanity Fredericton Area.

"We're doing landscaping for this home, where people stayed earlier," said student Pierre Alexandre-Gallant as he planted shrubs out front of one of the non-profit organization's houses.

"And we're painting the inside. So we're doing all the managing of a home, getting it brand new to have another family in."

Habitat executive director Mike Ross said he was floored when the school approached him with idea of getting students to volunteer.

"I laud École Sainte-Anne and the leadership for taking this step," said Ross. "The entire high school has shut down and the kids are everywhere," he said.

Student-driven initiative

The idea of taking a full day away from classes, even during a busy time of year, was inspired by the students themselves.

"After we came back from our humanitarian trip in Hawaii we figured it be a good idea to give back to the community instead of just keeping it to ourselves, like all the values and lessons we learned," said student Jeff Hedley.

That trip had 22 students volunteering in Hawaiian communities through Habitat for Humanity International, fixing up homes and improving living conditions.

"It was dangerous health-wise," said Denis Gervais, a math teacher from the school who accompanied students on the trip last March. "Some of those houses were not fit for human living."

The students had to raise their own money to pay for the trip. In some cases, it costs as much as $3,600 to send one person.

"The City of Fredericton is amazing," said Gervais. "We've been doing these trips every two years and they are so giving."

The Hawaii trip cost about $89,000. The school has raised more than $285,000 for humanitarian trips since 2007, said Gervais.

As proud as the teacher is of the students for their efforts, both in Hawaii and at home, he's just as proud of the city that made the trips possible.

"We really, really, thank the city of Fredericton," said Gervais. "We couldn't do this without that generosity."