By late morning last Tuesday, the temperature had already reached 80 degrees at Coventry High School.
But Devon McAfee and the students who had come together for community service work were not deterred.
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Outside the school, a handful of students emptied a retention basin, preparing it for the placement of a memorial next week with the names of former students.
In the back, a larger group cleared weeds and debris from another retention pond under the direction of McAfee.
The students belong to a community service club formed by McAfee called Comet Unity. Another club, Comet Strong, challenges its members to improve their fitness. Both incorporate the district comet theme, applied to district athletics and literature.
The clubs had a pre-pandemic iteration, which fizzled out when the pandemic hit, McAfee said. Superintendent Lisa Blough had asked McAfee before COVID-19 hit to establish the groups to involve students.
McAfee said he was excited about the task.
“We have great kids, hard working kids,” he said. “If we can involve more students, we can spread the positivity.”
Both groups have been reconfigured after the pandemic left many students with little to do last summer. According to him, they are part of the resurgence of the local school district of Coventry after a long fight with budget cuts and a scandal involving a former football coach.
âWe need some positivity,â McAfee said. âNow is the time for us to create a new chapter. We’ve been through some tough times, but it actually made us stronger. “
McAfee, who is the head coach of the high school basketball team, is not lacking in enthusiasm.
Students and parents have responded well to the initiative, he said, with 15 to 20 students participating in the Unity club and 10 to 20 in the Strong. Students range from second graders to high school students.
The programs started in early June and will continue for another week.
Along the way, Unity students helped beautify Firestone Metropolitan Park by painting benches and landscaping, helped set up and clean up a local business, and clear debris from a creek at the Portage Lakes Community Church.
Members of the strong club worked with representatives of the United States Marines, Navy and Ohio National Guard.
McAfee said Strong’s students used a physical education program he learned through his wife.
âI was wondering if our fitness club could do that,â he said. “I tested it and every week they got stronger.”
During a session with the Marines, the students played dodge ball.
âHe had a blast with the kids,â McAfee said.
He said he plans to end the season with a dodgeball / kickball tournament and pizza.
Students in the Unity session on Tuesday said the program had been rewarding.
Chase Taylor, 14, said a session at Greenlawn Memorial Park became personal when he found the grave of his great-grandfather, “Digger” Odell.
âI didn’t know exactly where he was buried,â Chase said. “It was a little emotional.”
McAfee’s son Kamden said he enjoys helping people.
âI like to do it because it helps the community,â he said.
Brayden Clark said the projects helped the students involved “bond a little better.”
âYou meet new people every day,â he said.
Several members of the basketball team are in the clubs and assistant basketball coach Dillon Angle, a former student of Coventry schools, was helping.
McAfee said the importance of the programs creates a positive experience for the students and the district.
âI wanted to show the students that we can all work together, that we can accomplish anything,â he said. âMy goal is to make him grow, grow and grow. “
Leave a message to Alan Ashworth at 330-996-3859 or email him at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @newsalanbeaconj.