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High school students spruce up Bond Mill

National leadership program does service project at Laurel elementary school

by Tiffany March | Staff Writer, The Gazzette

Nearly 100 high school students from across the United States weeded, planted flowers, painted and mulched Saturday at Bond Mill Elementary School in Laurel as part of a week-long national leadership program hosted at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The Mastering Leadership program, which is offered through the National Student Leadership Conference, gives students a chance to visit Washington, D.C., and to learn about the fundamentals of leadership from guest speakers.

<sw_photo=8712> A key component of the week is the community service project because the NSLC stresses service as an important part of leadership.

The students came to Laurel because Bond Mill parent Robert Pruitt is the director of Leadership Development and Programming with NSLC.

Pruitt said he thought it would be a good way to teach younger children the importance of community service.

<sw_photo=8713> “This makes kind of a visible mark that says, ‘Look what’s possible,'” Pruitt said.

Pruitt’s twin sons, Marshall and Aiden, will start first grade this fall, and he said he would like to begin a leadership program at Bond Mill for elementary students.

Students in kindergarten through second grade would participate in a program developed by the Sesame Workshop to encourage community participation. The program allows children to communicate with their peers in other countries, he said.

Pruitt said the fifth- and sixth-graders would generate and plan community service projects that would be carried out by third- and fourth-graders, such as “Operation Smile Day,” to raise money for the charity that treats children with facial deformities.

“We’re ambassadors for the world,” he said.

In past years, students have completed service projects in Montgomery County and the District, but this is the first time they have come to Prince George’s County, Pruitt said.

Alexis Benedetto, 15, of Connecticut painted hopscotch on the pavement. Benedetto said she wanted to participate in the program because it would help her understand what to expect from the future, as she starts thinking about college and a career.

Program director Mark Di Cristofaro said that NSLC spent about $2,000 on supplies and that Home Depot donated mulch for the project.

Bond Mill Principal Justin Fitzgerald was unable to take part in the service project because he had to travel to New Jersey for a family emergency, but he said he was thrilled about the project.

“[It] will really make a difference around the school,” he said.

E-mail Tiffany March at tmarch@gazette.net.