ALMONT — Students in Vikki Bishop's service learning class have taken matters into their own hands—and heads and hearts—this holiday season.
The middle schoolers, in conjunction with student council members, have been busy reading—which on the surface sounds like something all middle school students should do. The difference is these students aren't just feeding their minds, they're helping to feed area families by collecting Almont Food Pantry donations for each page read.
"The students came up with the idea," Bishop says. "They're determined that all activities they do are related to (community) service and to motivate participation of all students."
The holiday 'Read for Need and Read to Feed' food drive is the first ever, Bishop adds, and everyone's been pleased with the results so far.
"I thought it was a great idea and we wanted to try it and see how it went over," she says.
During the Thanksgiving holiday kick-off, it went over well. Students sought sponsors for reading, and rather than collecting a sum of money for pages read they collected non-perishable food items for the local pantry.
The read-a-thon is a school wide event—involving about 400 students—and all donations are funneled back into the community.
"We know there's a big need this year because of the car companies closing and there are a lot of local people impacted by that," Bishop says.
Vikki Bishop (standing, left) and her service learning students are in full swing with their holiday food drive at Almont Middle School. photo by Catherine Minolli.
Sixth graders read in exchange for boxed food items; 7th graders for personal hygiene donations and 8th graders turn the pages for canned goods. Students will continue their efforts through Dec. 19.
Just to make the project more interesting, students in Lori Beaupre's, Carol Purvis', Jose Andrades' and Cheryl Burnett's classrooms have a special competition going on—one that pits the girls against the boys. Whichever group collects the most items gets to "dress" the opposing side.
"If the girls win the guys will be dressed like cheerleaders," 7th grader Taylor Timko says. "If the guys win, the girls have to dress like hunter people."
In the meantime, the middle schoolers have more plans to challenge themselves and have some fun. On Wed., Dec. 3 they'll participate in a reading contest and cap it off with an assembly on Fri., Dec. 3.
From Dec. 10 through Dec. 14 they'll change up their wardrobes to reflect a character from a favorite book as part of Spirit Week. If they reach half of the set reading goal before school breaks for the holidays they'll be treated to a G-rated movie the Friday before the break. If they reach the entire goal, the treat will be a PG movie complete with popcorn.
"The students are so excited and so involved every time they're doing something important," Bishop says. "It really sticks with them."
Some youngsters—both past and present service learning students—even take time during their lunch break or after school to pitch in for a good cause.
"It's really amazing. They come in and say 'is there anything I can do to help?'" Bishop notes.