TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls middle schoolers got a one-day break from classes this week to spend time volunteering.

Nearly 2,000 Twin Falls School District students participated in “Helping Hands Day” — Thursday for Robert Stuart Middle School and Friday for Vera C. O’Leary Middle School.

The purpose is to help students learn about the importance of community service and give them first-hand experiences outside the classroom.

“I really like it,” 14-year-old Cambria Umbaugh said Friday, while working at the College of Southern Idaho’s fitness trail. “It’s really fun, just getting out and helping out here.”

Service sites included Shoshone Falls, Pillar Falls Elementary School, Twin Falls Animal Shelter, Twin Falls County Fairgrounds and Minidoka National Historic Site.

On Friday, Cambria and classmate Jovonne Figueroa, 14, were using rakes to evenly spread new mulch onto the fitness trail. Their favorite part of the project: being outside.

Most O’Leary eighth-graders, plus a couple of seventh-grade classes, were working in groups of 10 on different sections of the trail.

Rotary Club of Twin Falls member Kyle Tarbet helped out the students. The club plans its once-a-year service work at the CSI fitness trail to coincide with Helping Hands Day.

Each year, they do trail maintenance, such as laying much, picking up trash and pulling weeds.

Tarbet, who’s marketing and programs coordinator for the Twin Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, has participated for four years.

“The kids are always hard workers,” he said.

O’Leary physical education teacher and coach Jade Garcia was also using a rake alongside students from his advisory class.

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Garcia asked his students, “Hey, does anybody need sunscreen?” It was a particularly warm day, with high temperatures expected to be in the low 80s.

Nearby, water in the Perrine Coulee gurgled and young children laughed and played outdoors at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Magic Valley.

A woman walking her Great Pyrenees dog cut over to the grass to bypass the section of trail students were working on.

“Oh my gosh, can I pet your dog?” Cambria asked the woman. She petted the dog’s head and scratched behind its ears.

The fitness trail is a popular place for community members and students, Garcia said. “A lot of people use this trail.”

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