Jessica Takes Charge (Sweet Valley Twins)

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9780553486001: Jessica Takes Charge (Sweet Valley Twins)
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Great expectations...

Identical twins, Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield are about the say good-bye to sixth grade--forever!  But it's not over yet...

Jessica and her friends are psyched to spend one of their last weeks as sixth graders working at the mayor's special Outreach Fair.  But volunteering isn't as easy as it looks.  Lila Fowler thinks a job at the mayor's office will be glamourous--little does she know!  Jessica can't wait to teach health classes to a group of first graders...  unitl those adorable kids turn into monsters!  And Elizabeth, busy at work in a soup kitchen, stumbles upon a mystery!  Can the SVMS volunteers pull it all together before everything falls apart?

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Without volunteer work," Mr.  Clark proclaimed, leaning against the lectern, "this country would never have become great.  In fact, it is possible to say that volunteer work has made America what it is today."

If it's possible to say it, why not just say it? Jessica wondered.  She yawned.  Mr.  Clark had been speaking for at least fifteen minutes and hadn't gotten to the point yet.

Lila nudged Jessica with her elbow; "He's putting me to sleep," she whispered.  She tossed her head dramatically against her seat, her shoulder-length hair flying every which way, and pretended to snore.

Jessica looked wistfully at the bracelet.  The hearts were really pretty, but she couldn't escape the feeling that they would have been even prettier on her own wrist--

"So to cut to the chase," Mr.  Clark said loudly, shifting from one foot to the other, "the faculty and I have added a new requirement for all sixth-grade students.  As you have probably guessed, the requirement involves volunteer work."

The room erupted into a buzz of conversation.

Volunteer? Jessica drummed her fingers nervously on the armrest of her seat.  She wasn't sure how she felt about volunteering.

Jessica nudged Lila.  "What do you think?" she asked, trying to ignore the gleaming bracelet.

"I think it's cool," Lila said.  "Some people do really interesting volunteer work.  Like Johnny Buck.  He volunteers in cancer wards of hospitals.  When he's not touring with his band, I mean."

Jessica stuck out her lower lip and considered.  Lila was right.  The Buckster did spend a lot of time visiting kids in hospitals.

"And Louisa Roberti, the fashion designer?" Lila went on.  "She volunteers too."

"That's right," Jessica murmured.  She'd seen photos of Louisa, dressed in her latest creations, at glamorous parties she hosted to help stamp out-- something.  "I hadn't thought about that." Wow.  Volunteering was sort of .  .  .  glamorous.

Mr.  Clark blinked, smiled uncertainly, and removed his glasses.  "You're all growing up, nearly seventh-graders, preparing to take your place in society.  It's time you regard yourselves as citizens, not simply as, ah, students."

Jessica looked around the auditorium, wondering how the other kids were feeling about Mr.  Clark's speech.  A couple of rows ahead sat her friends Mandy Miller and Grace Oliver, who were talking in low voices.  Near them was Elizabeth, writing something in her notebook.

Jessica couldn't help a smile.  Typical Elizabeth--taking notes even during an assembly.

"So that, in a nutshell, is the reason for the new requirement." Mr.  Clark smiled broadly.  "Now, as you may know, the mayor of Sweet Valley and I are personal friends, and she has asked for my--our help with a somewhat, ah, ambitious project."

Jessica swept her hair off her forehead.  For the life of her, she couldn't remember the mayor of Sweet Valley's name.  Suzanne Somebody.  Suzanne Flint, maybe? Jessica's parents had been very excited about the mayoral election, though Jessica herself had tuned it out.

"Mayor Flynn calls it the Outreach Project," Mr.  Clark said proudly.  "The city council funds a number of social service organizations--a soup kitchen, a day care center, a homeless shelter, a health trailer, several others." He paused and coughed into a pocket handkerchief.

Jessica wrinkled her nose.  Somehow soup kitchens and homeless shelters didn't sound quite as--well, quite as glamorous as the fancy fundraisers that the stars put on.

"All these agencies are located in the park that borders city hall," Mr.  Clark went on cheerfully.

"What about selling fancy dresses to raise money for charity?" Lila murmured.  "Does Project Outstretch do that?"

Jessica shook her head.  Suddenly she wasn't so sure about this volunteering business.  Mr.  Clark's ideas didn't sound elegant at all.  If Jessica were going to volunteer, he would have to come up with something good.

"There will also be a few, ah, support jobs," Mr.  Clark added.  "In the mayor's office, that sort of thing." He scratched behind his left ear, and his toupee wiggled.  "All students will work Monday through Friday next week after school for two hours each day."

The mayor's office.  Jessica relaxed slightly.  That had potential.  Could have a little style, even.  Weren't mayors, like, always on TV?

"What about homework?" Randy Mason stood up, blinking behind his glasses.  "I usually start my homework as soon as I get home."

"Don't worry, Randy." Mr.  Clark leaned over the lectern and winked, looking like a beached shark with a stomachache, Jessica thought.  She rolled her eyes.  "There will be a little less homework this week than you're used to," he said.

Well, that's good news anyway.

"And on Friday," Mr.  Clark said, straightening up, "you'll have a special treat.  That afternoon is the big Outreach Fair, when all these wonderful organizations will present what they do to the general public.  You'll have to stay till eight P.M., but you'll each get a coupon good for one half-price soft drink at the fair."

Jessica made a face at Lila.  As if a half-price soft drink was going to make everybody happy.  Still, the more she thought about it, the more she decided she could get into working for the mayor.  It wouldn't be Louisa Roberti's fancy balls, but it really could be a blast.

"Finally," Mr.  Clark said, "there is to be a jumble sale at the fair.  Students with extra time will help out sorting the merchandise, tagging and marking prices, and so on.  Any questions?"

"Mr.  Clark?" Elizabeth's hand waved.  "I'm reporting this assembly for the Sixers, and I need to know: Do students choose their own assignments?"

Of course they do, Jessica thought.  I hope.

"That's an excellent question, Elizabeth," Mr.  Clark said, beaming.  "Mayor Flynn and I have discussed this at length.  We have decided to distribute jobs at random.  This will enable everyone to--"

"At random?" Lila's jaw dropped open.  "But Mr. Clark, you can't do that! I refuse to work anywhere besides the mayor's office!"

The mayor's office? Jessica swung around in her seat and glared at her friend.  The mayor's office was her first choice! Lila had no right to want it.

Mr.  Clark's response was firm.  "And if you're lucky, you'll get your first choice, Lila.  Now, are there any more questions?"

Jessica groaned.  Her body sagged forward, and she rested her head against the seat in front of hers.  She had plenty of questions, all right.  Like, "Isn't it unconstitutional to assign us a job?" And, "How come I can't work with Louisa Roberti and Johnny Buck?"

But she decided she'd better not ask any of them.
"So as you leave for lunch, kids," Mr.  Clark said cheerfully, "Ms.  Arnette and Mr.  Bowman will give you your work assignments.  No pushing, please.  Thanks!"

Elizabeth slammed her notebook shut.  The assembly was over, and she had all the information she needed to write up her newspaper story.  "Which assignment do you want, Maria?" she asked, turning to the girl in the seat beside her.

Maria Slater smiled.  She had deep brown eyes and dark hair, which she'd put into braids that morning.  "Some of them sound pretty interesting," she said, standing up.  "I guess the soup kitchen."

"Well, you do like soup." Elizabeth smiled at her friend.  In the distance she heard Ken Matthews shout, "Yes! The day care center! Cool!" Slowly she began to make her way down the aisle.  "Actually, that's the kind of assignment I would hope for.  I want to be doing something that feels like it'll help people," she said.  "Something fun, but something that makes a difference.  Not just, you know, shuffling papers on a desk."

"That would be boring," Maria agreed.

Elizabeth adjusted a sleeve on the tie-dyed T-shirt her aunt Nancy had sent from San Diego last year as a birthday present.  "Maybe the soup kitchen," she said.  She could see herself spooning out a hot meal to hungry people.  "But the health trailer also sounds worthwhile," she added as she headed for the exits.  "Or the homeless shelter."

"I think it's a good idea to get everybody to volunteer," Maria commented.  "Even though I'm sure it'll be tough for some kids to get into it."

"Like my sister?" Elizabeth stood up on tiptoe and strained to find her sister in th...

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