By Diana Bowley of the Bangor Daily News: DEXTER, Maine - Ryan Mountainís adult body was folded into a chair three sizes too small Thursday as he worked with the Dexter Primary School pupil seated beside him.
When the youngster appeared stumped at finding an answer to a math problem, Mountain, a Dexter Regional High School Key Club member, leaned over and patiently explained how to find the answer. When that failed, Mountain held his hands in the air so the youngster could use Mountainís fingers to count.
It was then the youngster realized what he was doing wrong and gave Mountain a big smile as he danced in his seat.
"Just seeing them actually get it and then get excited is worth the effort," Mountain said.
Mountain and other DRHS Key Club members were scattered in elementary classrooms last week mentoring younger children. Club members attend high school classes, play sports and have after-school jobs, and they still find time for community service.
Despite their workloads this year, club members have participated in or conducted 242 events, fundraising activities and meetings. These included raising funds for a local girl and the homeless, planting flowers in the community, sponsoring a cereal drive for the local food cupboard and a mitten drive for nursing home residents, helping the Childrenís Miracle Network, planning a yet-to-be-held autism fair, mentoring, and attending Kiwanis Club meetings. They also raised $20,054.20 for charity over the last year, according Rick Whitney, club adviser and teacher.
The charitable giving reportedly was the most raised by any group in the New England district this year and, along with the community service, earned the club a handful of awards at the district Key Club convention March 28-30 in Springfield, Mass.
The club received the governorís Outstanding Club Award; first place in single service award; second place for annual achievement award, traditional scrapbook, and Project Awake Award; and third place in Club Poster. It was one of 38 schools to receive an Early Bird Dues Award and one of 12 to win a Distinguished Club Award. In addition, Rebecca Fick won the Sandy Nininger Award and Jana Kenney received the Outstanding Presidentís Award.
"There are some really competitive clubs in the New England district that take it very seriously, and to come away with the awards that we won at the convention was a real strong showing by our members this year," Whitney said Thursday.
DRHS was one of about 60 clubs that competed in the Silver Division representing clubs of 36 to 60 members.
With a membership of 59, the Key Club is the largest organization in the school, according to Whitney. He said the group formed about 11 years ago with about a dozen students. Participation has mushroomed over the years, and last year membership grew by 10 percent, making its enrollment larger than the freshman class.
"Key Club helps us give back to the school that helped develop us into the students we are now," senior Gavin Cote said Thursday.
Rebecca Fick agreed with Cote. Community service is such a component that Fick gave up fall and spring sports to participate in Key Club. Mentoring, in particular, gives her a good feeling, she said.
"I think itís when they come up and give you a hug. It makes you feel good," she said. "Weíre just trying to be good role models, and, hopefully, the kids we mentor here look up to us and aspire to stay in school and to make good choices."
For ninth-grader Jake Sherburne, helping out the community feels good and also is fun. Sherburne, who is the schoolís mascot, considers tutoring youngsters his "spring sport." Like others, Sherburne said the club is interesting because of Whitneyís leadership.
"Heís amazing. He does everything. I definitely look up to him," he said.
Whitney is quick to deflect the praise, saying itís the kids who make the club and that heís only there to advise and step in to guide.
To keep abreast of all the activities, he records them in a notebook he carries and he confers daily with the club president.
"You just make the time," he said. "We all kind of keep each up on events. Itís a team effort."
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