YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Students at a private college prep school in Katonah got out of the classroom and into the community for a different kind of lesson on Tuesday.

The Harvey School teamed up with Habitat For Humanity to require all high school students to take part in a day of service.

The ninth through 12th graders traded their notebooks and pens for paintbrushes and brooms Tuesday. The students painted fences, cleaned up a park and playground and cleared out a church basement in Yonkers.

They said they got more out of the day than they expected.

“You’re helping out so many people who need the help and they can’t do it themselves, so why not help them?” 11th grader Emily Pollack told CBS 2’s Elise Finch.

“We’re all happy to join in and contribute to the community,” added Ariana Weaver, a 10th grader at The Harvey School.

“It almost doesn’t feel like work because it’s so much fun,” student Julia Peraglia told Finch.

The Harvey School headmaster said this partnership with Habitat benefits all involved.

“Trying new things, mastering new things, seeing how they can be helpful just inspires them to learn more,” headmaster Barry Fenstermacher told Finch.

“The seed gets planted, the tree grows in the form of great people, great community leaders – very successful, who realize the best of success is giving back,” said Jim Killoran of Habitat For Humanity Westchester.

The students said they left the day with a sense of pride.

“Outreach to less fortunate people always no matter what just makes you feel really good inside,” 10th grader Brendan Kneitz told Finch.

Officials said the basement of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church that the students cleared out will eventually be used as a youth center.

Staffers with Habitat For Humanity said because many city governments are financially strapped, school-sponsored service days are crucial to improving under-served communities.

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