By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News
In April, Mt. Pleasant Middle School students will be stepping outside of their classrooms for a lesson in empathy and humanity.
Middle School social studies teacher Kendra Ruschill says academics obviously are the priority at the middle school, but the staff and administration see the value in teaching students social values, such as self-discipline, respect and empathy.
?We?ve really been focusing on empathy more this year and doing different activities to promote that,? said Ruschill, noting earlier in the school year the middle school students were able to see the movie ?Wonder?. ?Obviously academics is our focus, but those other life skills, like empathy, seems to be one that if we can promote, it makes for a more caring, safe, learning environment.?
In a letter Ruschill sent to local businesses, she says that by promoting empathy, students will have the ?desire and motivation to be effective change makers.? Ruschill continues saying she hopes these empathy lessons will help show the Mt. Pleasant students some of the complex issues around the world, but that by having empathy and channeling that into action, it can have ?ripple effects through communities and cultures.?
April?s lesson will center around a food packaging event. Ruschill said she was recently talking to a former school board member who has family in Texas.
?There are still residents in FEMA trailers and federal assistance with food stopped in December,? Ruschill said. ?They?re relying on food banks and outside assistance.?
To help out, students will have a food packaging event three days in April. At 1 p.m. on April 24, 25 and 26, students will be released from class and spend the next three hours packaging meals to be distributed to hurricane affected areas in the United States. The school is partnering with Take Away Hunger for the event and food distribution.
?Last year we did a food packaging event on the last day of school. We (made) 102,000 meals,? said Ruschill. This year the goal is 125,000.
?I felt good helping other people,? said eighth-grader Marie Sitar. ?It really kind of opened my eyes that not everyone has access to food on a regular basis.?
?You kind of realize what you have and what other people don?t,? added her classmate Abby West.
Eighth-grader Ava Lowery said it was difficult to imagine not having food for one meal, let along going days not knowing where your food would be coming from.
The non-perishable food has been engineered to be high in nutrients and protein, said Ruschill. Each meal costs roughly a quarter, but with a goal of packaging 125,000, Ruschill says the school will need financial assistance, which is why she sent letters to local businesses. The students are pitching in, however. They are currently having a change contests. Each grade has a bottle to fill with change. Silver change, like quarters, nickels and dimes create a positive balance for each grade. Pennies, however, create a negative balance.
?There are grades bringing in big jars of pennies and putting it in the other grades? bottles,? said Lowery.
It all counts in the end, her friend Marie Sitar reminded her. And that?s what counts.
Financial assistance is not the only way the community can help. Ruschill said community members and local businesses can sign up for shifts along side the students or keep the packaging going after students are released from 3:20 to 5:30 p.m.
For more information, send financial assistance or to sign up for a shift, contact Ruschill at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 319-931-1726.
Cash or checks can be made to the Mt. Pleasant Middle School or by the Take Away Hunger organization (designated to MPMS).