Next week, when the date on the calendar marks the 11th day of the month, Christmas decorations will suddenly appear at the sole nursing home in Madison, Neb. There'll probably be some trash cleanups around town, and the firehouse might just get a sweeping out, too.
These will be no ordinary bursts of small-town activity. They will be the intentional acts of civic-mindedness of several local high school students who have formed the Eleventh Day Heroes, a volunteer group that aims to honor those who died on Sept. 11 by performing community service on or around the eleventh day of every month.
And though these teens are acting locally, they are spreading the word nationally. Through the Internet and word of mouth, they are trying to enlist schools across the country in their efforts to bring lasting meaning to a day marked by senseless tragedy.
"It kind of seemed like Washington, D.C. [and New York and Pennsylvania] were so far away that we couldn't do anything," says Shantell Siecke, a student-council member at Madison High School, who helped organize the group. "This was a way to actually bring it to our town. We can't do everything as individuals. We need to be together, and we'll get a lot more accomplished."
So far, the students have heard from five other schools, which have formed their own Eleventh Day Heroes groups. Schools are encouraged to find out what their local communities need, and then to pitch in to help.
In Madison, students are supported by the school district, which lets them use their last-hour study period to do the volunteer work, and also provides transportation.
"Our goal is, we want 15,000 schools to do this," says Robert Ziegler, superintendent of the Madison Public Schools. "Can you imagine if every high school and every elementary school every month gave an hour of kids' time to make the community better? It just blows our mind[s] to think about this."
For more information, contact the students via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.