Jacob Hullett wants to show the community that students at York One Academy are caring people who want to help others.
“They probably think we are bad people, but then they see us doing caring things for other people,” said Jacob, 11. “And then they think, ‘Oh, that’s a nice kid.’”
Jacob and nine other fifth- and sixth-graders in Colleen Cottom’s class at the York school district’s alternative school say they are putting that idea into action.
They are creating a promotional campaign to urge other students and people in the community to join them in collecting aluminum can tops to raise money for families served by the charitable Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte.
“The kids, they need help,” said Jacob, referring to sick children whose families stay at the house while they receive treatment at a nearby medical center for childhood illnesses.
“We picked this service project,” he said. “We figured we could collect tabs and turn them in for money to go to the Ronald McDonald House.”
Cottom said her students are doing the service project as part of their study of personal development, led by Arsonia Stroud. They talked about the quality of empathy, and the students considered several ways to show that.
“We wanted them to take this project on to learn how to be leaders and how to project themselves in positive ways,” Cottom said. “We told them we would be there for support them, but that this is for you to do.”
The students visited area businesses to ask for support, and provided containers for business owners to collect can tops. They also created posters to display at school to elicit support from other classrooms.
And they are creating a video to be shown at the school about their project. Some students played speaking roles in the project, she said, while others served behind the scenes.
Thomas Laney, 12, said he is interested in helping other kids.
“Some of their families can’t afford to drive back and forth to the hospital,” he said, explaining that the Ronald McDonald House offers a place for them to stay at no cost.
David LaPointe, 12, was making a container to collect can tops from a potato chip can. “I feel like I’m helping them a lot,” he said.
David said he also visited two local businesses and talked to people at his church to ask for support. “It lets more people know we’re not bad,” he said. “We are trying to help, and we are willing to help.”
Cottom said the students learned that they can raise about $1.20 for each gallon container filled with can tops. She said it costs around $90 a night for a family to stay at the house, so the students hoped to raise as much money as possible.
Mike Laurencio, 13, said he has collected almost 1,000 tabs so far with help from his parents and his grandmother’s retirement apartment.
Corey Smiley, 13, said he wants to “help other people and put smiles on their faces that are in pain. And to show the community around York, just because we wear uniforms doesn’t mean we are prisoners. We care.”
Shelton Clinton, principal of York One Academy, said the students have been engaged in the project. They wrote a letter to the school superintendent to seek approval, she said, and came up with ideas to promote their campaign.
“This is their baby, it’s not the teacher’s baby,” Clinton said. “Which I think is so important in education.”
She said the personal development class is an elective that focuses on character development. “You can’t force people to care. These kids care.”