When Fred Bush joined the Rapid City Area Schools’ Solutions class, the last thing he wanted to do was sit around and talk.

“I don’t think sitting around talking about feelings helps with the community,” he said.

So Solutions class adviser Jackie Swanson put Bush and his fellow students to work building almost two dozen doghouses as part of a districtwide effort to raise funds for the Humane Society of the Black Hills.

“The boys just took off,” Swanson said. “They wanted to work with their hands. They didn’t want to sit around and talk about problems of the world.”

The all-male class is a spinoff of an all-girls Solutions class held this summer through Partnership Rapid City.

The classes, which are open to students at all of the high schools, are aimed at giving students a voice in the community through work service projects and forums to discuss finding ways to help at-risk youth.

The first Solutions class last summer spent resources and time researching the factors that contribute to dropout rates, teen pregnancy and truancy. The students presented their work during several public meetings, designed billboards and met with business and community leaders. The program has expanded to include five Solutions groups.

The male class spent two months last semester building 25 doghouses before distributing them to local schools for students to decorate. The doghouses will be displayed and auctioned off at Rushmore Mall from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 8, and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.

Community members can vote on which doghouse they think is the best. Each vote is $1, and the money will be donated to the Humane Society. The school with the most votes will have students featured on a billboard near the Humane Society.

The doghouses are for sale through a silent auction taking place at the same time as the voting. The proceeds from the auction also will be given to the society.

The students were creative with their decorating, Swanson said. One house features dog paws, another includes drawings of several dog breeds and one elementary school painted its doghouse pink.

Some of the doghouses include bedding and other features, Swanson said. North Middle School students added a chimney and a window.

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Bush, a 16-year-old student at  Jefferson Academy, said building the houses was a chore, but worth it.

“It was difficult at first,” he said.

The students worked with community mentors to learn the basics of putting the houses together. After the first one, it got easier, Bush said.

Bush said Swanson encouraged him to join the Solutions class. Meeting students from other schools has been one of the high points, he said, but more than that, doing something hands-on to help a good cause has been a good reason to stick with it.

“At least (we’re) helping with something,” he said.

Contact Kayla Gahagan at 394-8410 or kayla.gahagan@rapidcityjournal.com

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