Scholars wanted to focus on helping and feeding the homeless for a NJHS project. After speaking with Ms. Nicolette Kulka, dean of upper elementary at Winterfield and Backpacks for Humans board member and weekly volunteer, they began promoting the service project and started collecting.
Students schoolwide collected supplies from April 12 to May 21, competing for a prize at the end for the class who earned the most points. Each item collected earned one point, but as a fun twist, they also had point bonuses for select items based on what the organization needed. Of the 17 classes involved, Dr. Lauren Tiell’s seventh-grade homeroom class came in first at 809 points, taking the prize of a pizza party in their victory.
The service project was a team effort. NJHS scholars collected donated items from classrooms each Friday and were responsible for counting and tracking the items and points. Ms. Kulka dropped off the items on Sundays when she volunteered, and Dr. Tiell, NJHS advisor and seventh- and eighth-grade English language arts teacher, updated the class Dojo with totals each week and checked the Backpacks for Humans Facebook page to determine what the organization was running low on and to establish double point items for the week.
“When I asked NJHS what they wanted to do for their service project I had them complete a ‘plan’ and then present on it,” said Dr. Tiell. “Every single one of them talked about helping the homeless, feeding the homeless, giving them items they needed, etc. Backpacks for Humans does all of these things, and allows us to collect food, clothes, bathroom supplies, etc. In the flyer there is a quote about how it's a moment for them to come together as people, share their stories, and connect with each other – no matter the reason for why they are there. This service project allowed us to support and help others no matter the reason for why they were in the situation they were in. This is why we chose this project.”
Dr. Tiell hopes they can participate in the project again next year and surpass their numbers.
“I have never been more proud of a service project, a school community, or my NJHS scholars as I was with this project and the results they received,” said Dr. Tiell.
Backpacks for Humans was born by handing out cold water in July 2020 on a hot day in Toledo and has now evolved into giving backpacks filled with urban survival gear, food, and hygiene products and connecting those in need with resources.
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Winterfield Venture Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Toledo, Ohio, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 95 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.
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