Slater fifth graders Brencton "Bo" Morland and Larry Henke pushed brooms across the wood floors and searched the area carefully for paper clippings and debris.
The boys were not being punished, as custodians Frank Davis and Brian Adolphs joked. Instead, they've traded many afternoons of hanging out with friends for volunteering as school custodians -- a job they found to be more fulfilling than they anticipated.
On Friday, Aug. 31, the dismissal bell rang and students flooded out the doors like flowing water. But while most of the kids rode their bikes down the sidewalk or strolled to their parents' cars, Morland and Henke checked in with their supervisors to discuss the afternoon's work.
Since the middle of the 2011-2012 school year, Morland and Henke have stayed after school to help custodians sweep, vacuum and change trash bags. They work on all three levels of Alexander Elementary School as well as the district's new preschool.
"Me and Bo were walking home ... and then he said 'you know, I think I want to kind of start volunteering for something," Henke said. "We just felt like helping out at school ... we figured if we could help it would be a lot faster, take care of a lot more work."
The boys came up with the idea after doing some cleanup for a local church's youth group meeting. They initially intended to work at an animal shelter, but then quickly realized there wasn't one near Slater at the time. The conversation then turned to how their assistance could help a large body of the community through working at the school.
"I feel proud about it," Morland said. "It's fun."
Unlike Tom Sawyer, who cleverly convinced other boys to whitewash his aunt's fence, the boys found work to be a new and rewarding adventure. Morland and Henke have a new appreciation for their school and have learned about more than the importance of cleanliness.
"Yesterday we placed a filter for the air," Morland said. "And I got to see what it's like when it's frozen."
Henke discovered the preschool had an emergency safe room, and both were surprised to learn about an underground tunnel system.
"We also learned ... that the basement used to be an air conditioner," Henke added.
The boys' attitudes have begun spreading throughout the elementary school, which was noted when their friend Blake Bura also began helping. This is his first year to do custodial volunteer work.
Davis and Adolphs agreed the boys' efforts have been significant.
"They do a really good job," Davis said. "They started (as a way) to give back."
Adolphs echoed that sentiment, adding they give the boys duties that won't be too complex.
That, perhaps, is one of the reasons Henke and Morland have been perpetual volunteers. Although the school has had several students ask to do various work, Marriott indicated the two have seemed the most dedicated.
"Any kid in general, they probably get tired of doing the same thing, or they get tired of staying after school," Marriott said. "They're kids. (But these boys) just have that internal reward from this job that they really enjoy."
Henke and Morland's follow-through surprised Marriott when they requested to assist again this year. It seems the students who traded free afternoons for work must have received as much as they've given.
"I don't like cleaning up at the house, but I like cleaning up here," Henke said. "Frank says it's because I want to."
The boys are pleased to serve Slater schools, and hope to continue their new tradition of volunteering throughout the year -- changing the ebb and flow of school dismissal and district pride.
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