I don't want this post be sound self-aggrandizing because that is not my intent. I had an idea, I sold some people on the idea, and a whole bunch of people executed on the idea. So, although I had the idea....I don't take credit for the success of this project.
After I went to the Utah PTA Convention this year, I talked to my friend, Stephanie, who is the President about how we should start a student association. In the middle and high schools, PTA can be a PTSA. She agreed, and we went to work. I'm not going to lie...this project has taken more thought and time than I imagined that it would. But because Stephanie is so passionate about it, it's been very successful.
Each month we've had an after school meeting for our students, and we have about 40 kids attend each time.
For the month of November, I thought we should do a service project. We talked about different options. We thought we could get a bus and take kids to work at the Utah Food Bank. We looked into group service opportunities through United Way. Then I suggest that we have a food drive....but not just any food drive. At Mount Jordan Middle School in Sandy, Utah, we have almost 50% of our students on reduced or free lunch. This measure is significant because it is related to parents' income. We have some families in need, and we didn't have to look too far to find who had the greatest need.
So, here was what we did. We worked with administrators to identify 10 families in our school who were in need. Our Vice Principal, Matt Watts, was a ROCK STAR! He placed countless calls and relentlessly tracked people down. We wanted people to 1) agree to accept the donation; and 2) agree to pick it up at the school at a designated time. We didn't want the PTA moms to know anything about the families in need. We'd considered delivering the food in person, but working through the administrators provided privacy and confidentiality for the families. Matt was calling people all the way up until the day of, and I know that he stayed at the school until 6:00 PM on Tuesday when the last packet was picked up.
On Monday, November 14th, we had an assembly, and we "kicked off" our food drive. The homeroom classes had a competition (which made it more fun). In 5 short days of donating, we had enough food to feed 11 families (our final count). We got private donations for pies, turkeys, potatoes and rolls.
On Tuesday (the last day of school before the break), we got our PTSA kids to stay AFTER school. We sorted food, decorated boxes, filled the boxes and put a craft project (made by the kids) and nice plastic silverware (with a homemade napkin holder) in the boxes. We also made sure that each family had a roasting pan, some Stove Top and gravy.
I was blown away by the support. The PTA moms showed up in full force to sort food and manage certain groups of kids. Countless students and teachers donated food. Based on personal calls from Stephanie, we had 11 turkeys donated. And the best thing....the kids really love doing this kind of thing. In fact, when we asked them the kind of things that they wanted to do, they mentioned that they WANTED to do a service project....WANTED. These are 7th, 8th and 9th graders. Can I tell you how happy that makes me!
In my political behavior class, we've read literature on political socialization, political participation and involvement. You know, I firmly believe that kids WANT to help. They just have to be given an opportunity to do so. I talked with Dominique a few times about how this food was staying in our Mount Jordan family....for those who really needed it. She got the significance of that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a donation to the Utah Food Bank. However, I think when the kids know that their efforts are benefiting people they know (even though they don't know who), it means more to them.
In all of the things that I've done and been a part of, I'm really proud of this Student Association that we've started in our PTSA. We are inclusive...no requirement to get in (except annual dues, and we have scholarships for those who can't afford the $4.00). We respect the kids and their ideas. When we ask them how they want THEIR organization to be, and we are amazed at the great ideas they have! We should all give our kids more credit! Who knows how these experiences might influence a kid at a later time in life. I firmly believe that we have to model the behavior for them or they won't know how to participate in meaningful ways. Sure, they get this in their families and churches, but they spend MOST of their waking hours during the week at their school. It is here where they can make a difference and where, I believe, they want to make a difference.
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!!!!
A Fifth Grader and a Second Grader
1 year ago