Junior High School Project Allows Students to Step Up for the Community
Writer / Lois Tomaszewski
Lincoln Junior High School students are learning more than normal classroom studies. An innovative program is also currently teaching important lessons about compassion, caring and making a difference to others in the community.
Lincoln Leads began this year when leaders set up five events to engage student volunteers with people in the community. Students on the leadership team help organize and mobilize for the projects, says Assistant Principal Jake Singleton.
“We wanted to find a way to get more involvement with the community, not only to give back, but to show we support the community,” Singleton says.
The first event was a car wash to raise money to help a local family that suffered a house fire. The September 18 event raised more money than was expected, and students were excited and happy to have lent a hand according to Singleton.
“It felt good,” remarks Eliana Gifford, an eighth grader and Lincoln Leads student. “The whole community got involved.”
“It was a good thing for the community to see us do,” adds Reid Barger, a seventh grader at Lincoln. “Once we finished the car, people would say thank you. I was appreciative of the thanks.”
The remaining events for the school year are varied, and five projects are schedule for this year. Activities are designed to coincide with the seasons and address needs for particular times of the year, Singleton says. For example, in November students raked leaves for residents near the school who need assistance with this seasonal task.
On December 4, Christmas trees will be delivered to elderly people in the community and those who may be homebound. Community fitness day at Lincoln Junior High School on February 19 will open school facilities to the public for yoga classes, as well as access to the fitness room, the basketball, pickleball and badminton courts, and the indoor walking track. The last project of the current school year, on April 9, will be a community cleanup day at parks and neighborhoods near the school.
The student leadership team is hands-on when it comes to planning the projects. Students are learning about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting the word out about an event, recruiting student and parent volunteers, and making arrangements to get volunteers to the project location.
Singleton says the school uses its own resources, such as the school district minibus, to get students to event locations. Staff members also assist at the project sites. Parents have helped by bringing supplies to events.
For some of the students involved, their willingness to do for others started at home. Barger says his mother signed him up to help with projects such as donating food to food banks. Gifford’s great-grandfather worked at Ancilla College and always supported a local family during the holidays.
“Helping others shows that even though everything in your life might be great, not everyone has the stuff you have,” Gifford says.
For the students, giving to others benefits them as well.
“I feel like I did something good and I’ve helped out other people,” Barger says.
In Singleton’s opinion, the lessons his students are learning about helping others and giving back are as important as the science, technology, engineering and math skills they learn in the classroom.
“We want to give kids the best experience,” he says. “We want them to learn about having empathy and gratitude for what they have. The best way to build those is to have these experiences.”
Participation in the projects is open to all students.
People don’t always ask for help, Singleton says. When students reach out, they touch people’s lives.
“One little thing that you do can make a difference in someone else’s day or life,” Gifford says.
The life lessons that come from experiences like these can build bonds between students and residents in the community, Singleton says.
“Middle school is tough these days,” he says. “This is a chance for the community to know we have great kids here.”