A dozen years ago, Haley Killian visited Cecil County's Plumpton Park Zoo with her aunt and uncle.
She was back at the zoo again recently, this time as a worker not a spectator.
"I remember coming here and seeing a camel. This zoo looks better now than it did then," said Killian, 18, and a senior at Solanco High School.
The local zoo hosted more than two dozen pairs of helping hands on earlier this month. Killian and two dozen other juniors and seniors from the school were at the zoo last week as participants in Solanco High's first ever schoolwide Day of Service. Overseen by four faculty members, the students were charged with the task of preparing zoo grounds for a future tiger exhibit.
The scope of work included sorting, carrying, and loading, They were in an open field, clearing debris including old sliding boards, pallets, animal feed, and pipes. "They were told to wear old clothes and that they would get a little dirty," said Solanco Phys. Ed teacher Billy Harrison, who was one of the staffers overseeing the work.
"I love animals and I wanted to help someone else. The work is hard but it's not horrible. They (zoo staff) provided us with gloves," said Killian.
Many of the students signed on for the project believing they would be dealing with animals. "They knew it was some type of work. If they work hard they will get to walk around and see the animals," said Harrison.
Biology teacher Alie Armstrong was also overseeing the work. "My parents talk about this zoo all the time. It's a cute zoo. We watched a video about it before we got on the bus. It got them excited," said Armstrong. She also said that she told the students that in the future, they can bring their children to the zoo and tell them they helped pave the way for the tiger exhibit.
Senior Lauren Swisher was surprised by the workload. "I thought we'd be looking at animals. I hadn't been to this zoo before, but I like this day of service. It's good to get out of the classroom and help others," Swisher said.
Senior Harrison Bauer said he was also misled. "I thought we'd be cleaning up after animals but this is nice too. The day of service, we should keep doing it and other schools should do it too," said Bauer.
Tyler Golden said he was glad for the opportunity to help. "I'm a person who hasn't done a lot with sports or anything. I'm glad for the opportunity to do something, to help. My friends said we should do the zoo trip. I don't mind the work and I'm looking forward to seeing the animals," said Golden.
Plumpton Park Zoo staffer Arnold Pruett commended the work. "They're doing a bang up job so far. They are working hard," said Pruett.