ANDERSON -- Saws and trees, rather than pen and paper, weren't really what The Crossing Educational Center students were expecting during their first week of classes. But that's exactly what some of them got.
A group of about 25, including visiting students from The Crossing campuses in Elkhart and South Bend, headed out to New Purpose Ministry, 2404 Dewey St., Wednesday to cut down unwanted trees on the property.
While they were at it, they picked up trash and took requests to cut down "a number of trees" in the neighborhood, said Tamie Tatum, who works on community development for The Crossing, Anderson Community Schools' new alternative school partner.
In the beginning, Marcus Manuel, 17, thought of the work as just a school requirement. Each student must complete 10 hours of community service per year.
But once Manuel got started, he said, it really felt like they were making an impact.
"It was fun. It was cool. It felt good," he said.
Especially when neighbors saw the students working and asked whether they could help, he added.
Matyese Stith, 16, felt much the same way.
"At first, it was like, 'Why are we doing this?' Then it was, 'Hey, we helped the community,'" Stith said. "It all felt good at the end of the day."
Manuel hadn't really thought about participating in community service before. Now that he has, he would like to do more hands-on projects.
It's not easy work, he added, but he'd like to help clean up the city's neighborhoods.
And he wants more teens to get involved, so that residents see youth out in the community and "know kids our age are not just bad."
Stith said he's helped people do tasks such as cleaning out their garages, but he had done nothing like the first week's community project.