HAGERSTOWN, Md. (DC News Now) — Maryland Governor Wes Moore proposed a paid ‘gap year’ for high school graduates last month modeled after national programs like Peace Corps and VISTA.

Under this program, high school graduates could participate in community service projects around the state later this year.

The gap year would precede enrolling in college or entering the workforce.

“It builds a work ethic,” said Leonard Walker, III, a Hagerstown parent. “Helps them build character.”

Hagerstown mom Loren Hays agreed.

“They can do habitat for humanity and really see the nitty gritty things about life. Kids, honestly, need to see the real life situations we face in our own community,” she said.

Walker said the grads “can help with Meals on Wheels, anything that helps the elderly, maintenance programs in office buildings learning the workings of environmental systems.”

The grads are paid $15 per hour and receive a $3,000 stipend they can use for college.

“I think we expect our students, seniors in high school, to know what they want to be when they grow up, whether it be in government or something else down the road. — but I think it is a great opportunity to take a break,” said Hagerstown City Council Member Shelley McIntire.

McIntire said she sees the program as a win for the student and a win for the communities served.

“We build this community for our future and imagine the kids being able to be a part of that future and have even more pride for where they live,” McIntire said.

Volunteering dropped during the pandemic. Governor Moore said his plan will help with those neglected projects. He hopes to have 200 participants this year and 2,000 in year four of the program.