CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- HI-Y, which stands for High School YMCA, is probably the most popular club at Valley High School. It is a school-organized group that helps the community while earning students service hours.
Valley history, psychology and sociology teacher Diane Beard is the club's leader. She has always enjoyed volunteering, so in 2006, when her oldest child, Elizabeth, was a freshman in high school, Beard decided to start a club to do volunteer projects. HI-Y takes a lot of her time, but she said it is a good feeling when you know you have helped someone.
Beard's family is supportive and part of the group. Her son and daughter, Slayton and Emily, are current HI-Y members, while Elizabeth is an alumna. Her husband George lends a hand if needed.
Currently, there are 32 members in Valley's HI-Y club. They include President Tyler Chaffins, Vice President Nathan Phillips, Secretary Kaitlin Slayton, Treasurer Becca Tackett, Sergeant at Arms Corey Tolley and Chaplin Slayton Beard. Robbie Belmont, Cody Winter and Timmy Tolliver make up the executive council, and Brittany Brown is in charge of public relations.
Everything HI-Y does earns the students community service hours. This year's senior class has achieved more community service hours as a group than any that has come before it.
Some of the activities they have participated in are the Montgomery Oktoberfest, a Pumpkin Drop at Bridgemont Community & Technical College, Santa's Corner in Gauley Bridge and a Parent's Night Out with Starting Points, where the members babysat so parents could go Christmas shopping.
They also worked concession stands during football and basketball season and helped at the Special Olympics. They started the Kennel Club, a mentoring program at Valley Elementary School that's named after the schools' mascots. (Valley High are the Greyhounds, and the elementary school are the Little Hounds.)
They have done a number of awareness walks, including the American Heart Walk, the Walk for Fallen Heroes and the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. They went to Charlotte, N.C., for the National Autism Walk.
In 2009, Valley's HI-Y began a partnership with the national organization Autism Speaks and hosted the First Annual Jerri Elliott Walk Now for Autism. This event raises money for research funding and is named in memory of Valley student Cody Elliott's mother. This year's event raised more than $4,000 for Autism Speaks and more than $500 for local charity Wild Spirit Ranch, an equine therapy program in Shady Spring for people with mental and physical special needs.
Beard is proud of all her HI-Y members, especially her president and vice president. She called Tyler Chaffins a wonderful leader for the organization and noted that Kennel Club was all his idea. She also said Nathan Phillips did a fantastic job as the chairman for this year's Jerri Elliott Walk, a job that always falls to the vice president.
There are three ways to become a HI-Y member at Valley: legacy, which means you are a sibling of one of the 12 founders; middle school recommendation, where teachers create a list and the officers choose members from it, and application, where any remaining positions are filled by freshmen or sophomores who are interviewed and chosen by a club vote. Beard only votes in the case of a tie.
There are 31 middle and high schools in West Virginia that have a HI-Y club, including Horace Mann, Herbert Hoover and Sissonville. To learn more about HI-Y, visit www.hi-y.org. If you are interested in starting a club at your school, call 304-675-5899 or email h...@hi-y.org for more information.
HI-Y also offers several programs at Camp Horseshoe in Parsons. The Teen Entrepreneurship Summit for high school students runs June 10-16. A Leadership Summit is June 17-23 for high school students and June 24-30 for middle school students.