A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

R.A. Jones Middle School students turn leadership program toward philanthropy, community service

By Maridith Yahl
NKyTribune reporter

Three young students at R.A. Jones Middle School (JMS) in Florence took it upon themselves to start a philanthropy club — and are teaching all of us an important life lesson.

Seventh graders Anna Seidl, Lily Hopkins, and Skyler Earls got the idea as part of the STLP, Student Technology Leadership Program. They turned it into the STLP Philanthropy Group.

In STLP classes across the state, students use technology to solve school and community needs by designing, creating, and connecting — and being empowered in their learning.

These girls took a step forward turning it into a Community Service Project (CSP) by also giving.

“Philanthropy is giving back,” says Skyler. “A community service project is what we’re doing, giving back to the community.”

“Without receiving anything,” chimes in Lily.

Their first project began shortly after the beginning of the school year.

“We wanted to do something in October called ‘Socktober’ and we had a sock drive and donated all the socks to Homeward Bound [Shelter]. So we came up with a community service project, which was doing that, and then carried it on so we became philanthropists,” explains Skyler.

The girls were thrilled they collected 80 pairs of socks for the teens in the shelter. What made this even more special and fulfilling to them was that they were able to deliver the socks, and while there, they talked to the Director.

“It was fun to be a part of that,” says Lily.

Lily Hopkins, Anna Seidl and Skyler Earls (Photo provided)

“We did a project for the Blessing Bags, [collecting] hygiene items, for Homeward Bound,” Anna said about another project the group has completed.

With donations from students and staff at JMS, the girls were able to put together 12 Blessing Bags.

Skylar, with a big smile, says that “We got a really good amount.”

Lily excitedly adds, “I did not think the hygiene drive was going to turn out the way it did. It was really good.”

They explain how each bag contained shampoo, conditioner, 2 deodorants, 3 bars of soap, a hairbrush, 2 toothbrushes and 3 tubes of toothpaste. They especially wanted to point out that the lunch ladies gave them 12 bars of soap for the drive.

The three vivacious girls brainstorm ideas about what they want to do then “research other people’s ideas, from that we can change it up like this or do that,” says Lily.

For the sock drive they were “looking up Community Service Projects so we started doing more things like it and coming up with more ideas in our mind and thinking of things to do with our own little touch to it and mixing it up,” Skyler says.

When talking about a visit to Elmcroft, a senior living center in Florence, the laughter started as soon as the place was mentioned and did not stop. The word “fun” was mentioned in every sentence.

There, Anna, Lily, and Skyler played Uno with residents and gave out hand-made Christmas cards. All three enjoyed listening to the residents’ stories and thought they were all hilarious. Stories about this visit were endless and the girls are eager to go back and play some more Uno.

The glue that keeps them together is Cynthia Baker, the technology teacher, and sponsor. She is extremely supportive of the students, and it’s obvious the bond she has with them.

All three automatically speak up when asked how she helps them. They weren’t shy about sharing, often saying the exact same thing and finishing each other sentences.

Mrs. Baker provides some suggestions to their ideas, gives pointers, and is a proofreader. Most importantly, Skyler is eager to point out that, “If we ever need anything, she goes out and buys it for us, anything with her own money, which is really nice.” The trio enthusiastically agrees

All the work the girls do is completed after school on their own time. Their work will be presented at the State STLP Competition at Rupp Arena in April. The three are so excited about this competition and hope to win the opportunity to compete nationally in Philadelphia.

The girls have no plans to stop doing these CSP projects anytime soon. Their motivation for their work is humbling.

“When we did the hygiene drive we had such a good turnout…you just want to give back,” said Skyler. Lily’s motivation is that “it just made you feel good. Giving back to the community makes me feel good.” While for Anna the feeling that, “you’re more productive,” keeps her engaged.

All three girls have determination. They’re adamant about “not giving up” and “just going for it.” This is apparent in what they have accomplished so far and in what they have planned for the rest of the year, including, a Veterans Day Ceremony, teacher appreciation cards, bookmarks for the local library, helping a 3rd class at Collins Elementary, the Recycling Crew, and a food drive.

Doing Community Service Projects, “lets you go places in life,” Lily reflects introspectively.

Anna likes that, “It makes you feel better about yourself too.”

These words and actions from middle schoolers inspire the rest of us, too.

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One Comment

  1. Hi ladies.
    I loved the idea of going to the nursing home. You could take your “fun” time and have kids “adopt” a grandparent and have contact with them. Of course with parental approval. They would love a friendly card or just conversation. They are a wealth of knowledge and would welcome the visits. Even singing or talking to them and maybe a little stuffed animal to connect you to them.
    Keep up the good work.

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