By Rob McDaniel
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Seventh and eighth graders at East Bernstadt Independent Schools are on a mission to give back to their community and right now they’re on fire.
Currently, the students are filling shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. They will be packing 15 shoeboxes with items such as socks, hygiene necessities, clothes and items of their choice.
“I like doing stuff like this,” said Cole Kelley, 12, a seventh grader at East Bernstadt. “We’re getting to help other people instead of only thinking of ourselves.”
Since the East Bernstadt Wildcat Community Outreach Club was created in September, students have been constantly giving their club supervisor and math teacher, Monica Jones, ideas about how to help people.
“Teenagers often get a bad rap,” Jones said. “They have a reputation of being lazy ... but when we decided to do clubs here, the Community Outreach Club was the first one to get filled up.”
Jones said, despite the negative way that teenagers are often viewed, the students she supervises in the Community Outreach Club are selfless and have a strong desire to help their community.
“I’m really not running the show here,” Jones joked. “The kids come up with ideas and want to help so many people that I can hardly keep up with them. It says a lot about the teens that we have in East Bernstadt. They are just really awesome kids.”
The students have already given out food at New Salem Baptist Church food pantry, collected food for the St. William Catholic Church’s Thanksgiving baskets, collected 29 sets of sheets for returning soldiers, volunteered at the Optimist Club Fun Day, volunteered at Laurel Heights’ Fall Festival, collected socks for homeless veterans, helped boost a school recycling program, held a community toy drive and had an anti-bullying campaign.
Jones said the students wouldn’t have been able to achieve as much as they have without the support of school administration and parents.
“The support we’ve gotten has been incredible,” Jones said. “Our school administrators have done anything they can to help us, whether it’s approve additional meetings or allow us to stay after school to work. We’ve also gotten so much support from our parents. They are getting into this as much as the students. There has been at least one parent helping out at every event we’ve had this year.”
Jones was impressed and moved by the students’ decision to join the outreach club rather than the other fun and educational clubs the school offers.
“I just really feel like it’s our time to give back,” said Sidney Lewis, 12, a seventh grader. “We get so much from our community, we get everything we need. But there are people out there who don’t get what they need and it’s time that we give back.”
“Not everyone is as fortunate as we are,” Kelley agreed. “The community has helped me before and I really want to give back.”