A group of Orem teenagers is building a bridge of good works that will span from Orem to Romania.
The teens, many of whom are students at Orem High School, are raising money through community service projects to refurbish an orphanage and children's hospital in Romania.
Most of the teens are enrolled in a unified studies class at Orem High. The class includes a unit called Community Service 100, which tries to show students they can make a difference through volunteer work. Each student must complete 100 hours of community service.
But the teens found a way to make their local service projects reap benefits for another part of the world. On their own, the teens arranged to gather pledges from parents, friends and local businesses for each hour of community service they performed.
They will use the money to travel to Romania in May through the International Studies program at Utah Valley Community College. The teens will spend a month there repainting rooms and working at the Teton Hospital for Handicapped Children and St. Catharine's No. 1 Orphanage in Bucharest, Romania.
A California man has donated paint for the project. The teens are also collecting medical and health supplies to donate to the hospital.
"It's a neat experience," said Sara Heaps, a senior.
The students, among other projects, planted trees in Hobble Creek Canyon, served food at the Food and Shelter Coalition, mended and sorted books at Orem Library, provided free baby-sitting services for low-income families and did yard cleanup for elderly residents.
"I want to help out over there and help out here, too," said Natalie Smart, an 11th-grader who volunteers at the Orem Library.
Heaps has devoted 50 hours to retarded and physically disabled residents of the Hidden Hollow Care Center in Orem. She's helped them participate in recreational activities, served meals and given residents a listening ear and attentive companion.
"If education's goal is to turn out good citizens, I can't think of any better way than this," said teacher Cheryl Lewis. "Once you've taken part in world problems, you can't be apathetic about them."
The teens' volunteer efforts are earning them praise in the community, too.
"One of the things I've admired is that the young people care enough to reach out to people who may not be as fortunate as they are," said Kenneth Eckong, administrator at Hidden Hollow. "We're really appreciated having them work here with us."
"If you started naming all the different talents and skills you have to have to pull this off, it so far exceeds what's normally required in education that it will be phenomenal," Lewis said.
Lewis and another unified studies teacher, Barkley Burns, will accompany the teenagers to Romania.
Each teen is trying to raise $1,500 for the trip. That's been easy for some; others are still struggling. Donations may be sent to the UVCC Foundation Inc., Romania Project, 800 W. 1200 South, Orem, UT 84058.