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A passion for giving

Grade 9 students at Frank Roberts Junior High spin out a bevy of projects that help other and teach themselves the value of empathy

By Craig Westcott/November 25, 2021

Grade 9 students at Frank Roberts Junior High are finishing up a first of a kind course that has not only benefitted them individually, but also touched many people and community groups in the region.

The Passion Hour is a three-month long course that challenges students to identify a worthy cause, figure out a way to help and then put that plan into action.

The school’s new principal, Bruce Mandeville, is delighted with the way things have worked out.

“This totally goes against the stereotypical image that people sometimes have of junior high people,” Mandeville recently told the students in one of the two Grade 9 classes that inaugurated the course this fall. “Because you’re doing amazing work and it all comes from you. It’s your ideas, it’s your hard work, you’re reaching out to the community and doing wonderful causes… This is an amazing group of young adults, who are taking something on to not only better their community, but the world in general. I’m always telling people about the amazing work that you are doing. I only met you all two months ago, but I will tell anyone who listens about the amazing work you’re doing.”

Each Grade 9 class divided themselves into groups to create plans to help worthy causes. But that didn’t mean the groups operated in isolation of each other. Just the opposite. The students in the various groups were quick to help other groups, and even other classes in the school were enlisted for help.

Chad Hiscock, Ben Greeley and Jacob Tilley decided to help the CBS Lions Club, which like many community organizations, has been facing tough times raising money because of the social isolation dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We decided to sell ice cream here in the school in favour of the Lions Club,” said Hiscock. “We ended up raising $147. I’m with Scouts, and I’ve always found the Lions Club are just really nice people.”

Hiscock approached Dominion Supermarket, which gave the students $50 to spend at the store. “We bought the budget, or No Name brand ice cream, which gave us about 150 pierces of ice cream.”

Mackenzie Mercer, Jasmine O’Brien and Kate Tippett raised money for the Single Parents Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. “We had a Halloween Treats Sale to raise money,” said Mercer. “We got donations from convenience stores and that’s how we got our treats for the bags. We raised $269.”

Paytn Thatcher and two classmates also raised money for the Single Patents Association. They did it through a bake sale.

“My mom works for that kind of stuff and I’ve always felt that people who work at giving to people have a hard time raising money and getting supplies that they need,” said Thatcher. “So, we took the liberty of doing a bake sale and giving the money to them. We raised around $200 and it went well.”

The group’s teacher, Susan Corbett-Davis, noted the bake sale also had a Halloween theme. “A lot of students from the class contributed to their bake sale so that they could raise money,” added the teacher. “The same with the girls who put the treats together. They got the donations and then they brought everything to class and they (the other students) put it together in bags for them. So, they all worked as a group to help the other groups.”

Alika Temple-Sutton and four classmates devised a project to help fellow students. “We’re redecorating the girls’ bathroom and putting in feminine products so people don’t have to ask teachers for them, they can get them for themselves,” said Temple-Sutton. “We brought donation letters to a couple of different places and got $150 donated.”

“They’ve taken the initiative to make it a welcoming place, because the bathroom has been marked up in the past and girls come to school without proper supplies,” said Corbett-Davis. “They took it on themselves to get the donations and bring them in and do up a really nice place to go and be proud of it, instead of going in there and having graffiti all over the walls.”

Ava Sears and her friend Jenna Lewis gathered stones and got students from different classes in the school to paint Poppies on them. “We just wanted to do it for Remembrance Day,” said Sears.

The plan was to place the rocks in prominent areas so that people will be reminded that veterans are important.

Ava Porter and a classmate asked students from other classes to make Christmas cards for seniors at Admirals Coast Retirement Home. 

“It was a card to make them feel good about themselves,” said Corbett-Davis. “Just some sort of happy comment to say that we are thinking about them. And so they took the initiative and they had to get all the supplies and everything and give it to all the classes and the classes made the cards and gave them back to them. So not only are they including themselves (in the project), but they are involving other classes. They have Grade 7, 8 and 9 classes in on this initiative.”

Porter reckoned some 86 cards have been completed so far, and they are still coming in.

Tianna Emberley and Kathleen Saunders came up with the idea of donating backpacks full of supplies to homeless teenagers.

“My mom owns a business, so we asked some of the people there to donate and they donated over $146 and some people donated toothpaste and toothbrushes and some people donated clothes,” said Emberley. “We weren’t really sure if we were going to use the clothes or not, because they might not fit everybody’s size. We ended up getting a lot of donations.”

The backpacks will be donated to a youth organization on the Avalon.

Why homeless teenagers?

“I just thought that because we’re basically the same age, it would be easier to understand what they are going through,” said Emberley.

Haylee Francis and Emily Kirkwood baked and sold cookies to raise money for Ronald McDonald House. Their donation came to about $160.

“It kind of felt right to donate to them,” said Kirkwood. 

“We call them the Ronald McDonald Group,” said Corbett-Davis. “They made cookies at home and got the icing and all the rest of the crew here made happy faces on them and then they sold them at lunch time to the general population, and that’s how they raised their money. The whole group helped to contribute.”

Corbett-Davis is delighted with the way things have panned out. “This is our first year,” she said. “It’s trimesterized, so we finish this course at the end of November. And this is what they do. The students come up with some sort of passion project that they would like to take part in where they are making a difference in somebody’s lives, whether here in the school or in the community.”

Corbett-Davis said the students come up with the idea, craft donation letters, and approach sponsors and donors. “They also create Thank You letters as well to thank the businesses or whomever for donating or taking part in helping them with the project,” she said. “And sometimes they get out and deliver the cheque themselves. It’s important that they go right from the beginning to the end and see it all come in.”

Charlene Collins, the teacher of the other Grade 9 class, is also happy with the new course. The idea for it came from the principal, she noted. “And we just went for it,” said Collins. “Because this is the age where you have to get young people involved in community outreach and having empathy and this is where you start to build all the traits.”

Collins’ students came up with projects that benefitted the CBS / Paradise Foodbank, Toonies for Terry Fox, Coats for Kids, and the Gathering Place. One group even developed a sort of welcome club for Grade 7s, who come in new to the junior high, so that they could be made to feel welcome.

In addition to the altruistic aspect of the course, the students learned practical skills, like the logistics involved in designing and bringing projects to fruition.

Collins said she learned something from the course too. “That students can really motivate themselves and have a lot to give to the community and to themselves if we just provide them with the opportunity,” she said. 

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