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Students from the St. Labre School in Ashland sort food at the Bilings Food Bank as they spend a day volunteering in Billings. From left, Cameron Spotted Elk, Jose Meza, Valor Killsback, Lance Yarlott and Allen Woodenlegs were among a busload from the school. October 21, 2015.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Volunteering probably isn’t high up on most kids' list when they hit the city.

But it was the No. 1 priority Wednesday for about 35 St. Labre High School students in Billings. They spent a few hours volunteering at the Billings Food Bank, Montana Rescue Mission Bargain Center and the Ronald McDonald House.

The work is part of a renewed emphasis on service learning, St. Labre director of Ministry and Mission Integration Emily Ruef said.

“Sometimes coming to the big city can be a little intimidating,” for students of the small Ashland school on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, Ruef said. But Billings abounds with volunteer opportunities. Going in a group helps kids ease into things.

“Our goal was to build those relationship with these services,” she said.

Dartanyon Waterhouse and Donovan Wind helped load and unload donations alongside the bargain center.

“It kind of picks us up,” Waterhouse said. He hadn’t been having his best week and had his deceased grandfather’s name written on bracelets in his memory.

“They taught me how to live as a traditional, helpful person,” he said.

Mariah Tendore knows that stocking shelves probably isn’t going to save the world, but she realized that little things can go a long way.

A bargain center employee “explained to us where all the money was going to help homeless people,” she said. “It feels good to help them.”

Other students sorted food and folded boxes at the food bank.

Jose Abel Meza had a similar experience.

“Sorting food may not seem like much,” he said. But he and his classmate were glad to be working on service projects.

Besides, being out of the classroom and active on a beautiful day helps.

"It's pretty fun," Wind said.

Juniors and seniors at St. Labre are required to complete community service on their own, while freshmen and sophomores have school-coordinated opportunities, typically local projects for freshmen. The school is working to emphasize that education goes beyond the classroom, Reuf said.

“We’re trying to create a culture of service.”

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Billings Gazette.