Students scoured the Internet for phone numbers and credible sources.
They had spent weeks reading and researching projects they felt would be meaningful to others in the community.
Although it was somewhat nerve-wracking to meet with local officials and make phone calls to different organizations and community leaders, it was all part of the challenge and also part of the fun.
For a few weeks, students in Abigail Glass’s eighth-grade language arts class spent time reading the book “Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations.” The book was written by teens who decided being young isn’t a vacation or a break from reality, but rather the perfect time to get involved in society and take on responsibilities, while finding purpose in life. After finishing the book, students met in groups and began their own “Do Hard Things” projects.
Some students spoke with local organization the Carroll Kiwanis Club about putting recycle bins in downtown Carroll, another group researched the idea of putting bikes throughout Carroll for public use, one group of students put together a plan to form a partnership with Carroll County Public Health to stop student vaping and Juuling and more.
Glass said the projects challenged the students to find creative ways to think outside of the box and to give back and help the community, but also forced them to step outside of their comfort zones.
“Most students don’t realize the impact until the final product,” she said. “They are always surprised and elated to see their hard work come to fruition. That is when I see the most joy. Many of them find the idea of the project intimidating at first because unfortunately, adolescents don’t always get the opportunity to prove that they are capable of doing hard things. It is such a reward for them to prove to themselves that they can do things they never thought possible because of their age.”
After the students finished their research and put together a presentation, public officials like Mike Pogge-Weaver, the Carroll city manager, and Randy Kraul, the director of public works in Carroll, stopped by to listen to their ideas and give them advice on what they could do next to make their ideas a reality.
After listening to the presentation about recycling bins, Pogge-Weaver advised the students to meet with the Carroll Kiwanis Club about funding for the bins. The next step would be talking with the Carroll City Council, he said.
“They need to figure out those funding elements,” Pogge-Weaver said. “I think they would need to do a presentation in front of the council. I think they would be interested to see these students have ideas to improve their community.”
Kathi Milligan, the preschool-through-eighth-grade principal at Kuemper Catholic, said she stopped by the class one day and saw the students working on their community improvement projects. She couldn’t believe how invested they were, she said.
“One day when I was watching them working on their projects, just seeing how engaged and excited they were was really exciting for me to watch as an administrator,” she said.
Like the teens in the book, these projects also give Kuemper students a purpose and empowers them to give back and make a difference, Glass said.
“Our mission at Kuemper is to help our students understand the gifts they have been given and how they can use those gifts to serve others in this world,” she said. “By providing experiences that allow for creative exploration, it will hopefully help our students to become aware of their God-given talents and how they can use those to better the lives of others.”