More than 100 Grand Forks middle and high school students donated nearly 4,800 hours of community service this past summer through a volunteer program called Helping Hands, which is coordinated by the Grand Forks school district.

Each summer, at the beginning of the eight-week program, students attend instructional sessions that focus on character traits, attitudes and behaviors, volunteer opportunities, interest survey and discovering community needs.

Students are then assigned to local agencies, such as thrift stores, nonprofit day-care centers, nursing home facilities, schools, homeless shelters and parks, where they volunteer their time.

Last summer, they contributed 4,783 hours of community service, said Sarah Shimek, character education and prevention coordinator for Grand Forks Public Schools.

Through their involvement in the Helping Hands program, students learn about leadership, communication, teamwork and the importance of punctuality and reliability, and develop empathy skills that build character and promote a sense of community, Shimek said.

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Since the Helping Hands program was launched 18 years ago, youth volunteers have given more than 92,145 hours of community service to the greater Grand Forks area.