Middle schoolers learn the ‘awesome feeling’ of giving back | St. Louis Public Radio

Middle schoolers learn the ‘awesome feeling’ of giving back

Dec 27, 2018

A teacher at Orchard Farm Middle School started a new class this semester with one assignment: organize a fundraiser for a nonprofit of the students’ choice and follow through.

Chris Liesmann teaches Spanish in the eastern St. Charles school system. He decided to start an elective course on philanthropy. He called the class Change Makers.

First, he pushed the students — all eighth-graders — to pick a cause.

“What kind of tugged at your heartstrings, what made you think about something you hadn’t thought about, or what do you think you can make an impact (on)?” he asked them.

He was impressed with what they came up with.

“They are middle schoolers and so they’re like, ‘Well, what can I do?’ I want to get rid of that and say they can do something big and better and actually help other people that need help,” Liesmann said.

One group collected supplies for an animal shelter; another made food for the St. Patrick’s Center. Others collected items for a women’s shelter or blankets for cancer patients.

Erin Hulbert, a student at Orchard Farm Middle School, and a partner collected more than 30 blankets as part of a class on community service.
Credit Courtesy of Erin Hulbert

A lot of blankets, in fact: Jenna Overstreet, 14, and her group rounded up 180 blankets for children going through chemotherapy.

Overstreet says they collected donations at basketball games and from local businesses.

“We decided to do this, because we thought of the fact kids are in the hospital dying and we just wanted to help them feel comfort,” Jenna said.

Sophia Galba dropped off the items she and her partner raised for a women’s shelter a few weeks ago.

“When they saw us coming with bags, they were just really happy and they seemed really excited,” Sophia, 13, said. “It was an awesome feeling.”

Alyssa Wood and Erin Hulbert, eight-graders at Orchard Farm Middle School, pose with the box they used to collect donated blankets as part of a community service course.
Credit Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Students also learned about all the little things that can go wrong when organizing a fundraiser. Why was no one dropping off items? Well, because the email request never went out.

And there’s one challenge with only being 13 or 14 years old: not having a driver’s license.

The 180 blankets Jenna and her friends collected are stacked up in her basement, just waiting for a ride to the nonprofit.

“They’re (open) from eight to four, and with our parents working and stuff, that’s early hard,” she said. “But hopefully they’ll be delivered some time over winter break.”

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney