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Day inspires students to help others

Students take leadership roles in running projects

Kennedy Middle School seventh-graders, Aaron Drouillard (left) and Scott Wozniczka clean toys for charitable donations on Jan. 21.

Kennedy Middle School seventh-graders, Aaron Drouillard (left) and Scott Wozniczka clean toys for charitable donations on Jan. 21. Photo By Mary Catanese

Jan. 21, 2013

Germantown - A random act of kindness can go a long way.

That was one message students at Kennedy Middle School went home with Monday after participating in a plethora of community service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day during the school's day of service.

Students in fifth through eighth grade took it upon themselves to help various organizations and individuals who just need a little help. The sixth-graders made pet toys for the Washington County Humane Society, as well as fleece blankets for homeless families for the Youth and Family Project out of West Bend.

One group made greeting cards for senior resodents who participate in the Meals and Wheels program, while others separated clothing donations for Our Kids Closet, a nonprofit clothing bank located in Germantown. Greeting cards for veterans, place mats for the Germantown Senior Center, as well as emergency preparedness kits for Citizen's Corp. were also put together Monday.

"Today was probably the beginning of community service you will do in your life," said Jan Chapman, director of pupil services for the Germantown School District, during a presentation to students.

She spoke about the benefits and importance of helping others, and the power of acts of kindness. Her talk followed a talk on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., given by KMS Principal Susan Climer.

Not dependent on an adult

The day of service was not meant to be a one-time event, but rather a sampling for children to see what it is like to serve the community in the hopes that it will continue, said school social worker Sara Wong.

"One of the things that we discovered last year was for many students this was maybe their first opportunity at a service project because you think of service opportunities and a lot of them are dependent upon an adult and not every parent has the time in their schedules," she said. "This is a nice chance for kids who maybe don't get that opportunity for their families to get a taste of what it's like and maybe learn about an agency that needs their help," and then help on an ongoing basis.

Not only did students have the opportunity to help others, but they were able to step into a leadership role. Many of the activities and education about King were spearheaded by student organizations. The Builder's Club, which is the student version of Kiwanis, spent the weeks leading up to the event making announcements about service opportunities, as well as King's own activism. They also kicked off their Hunger Task Force peanut butter drive on Monday. Kiwanis partnered with the middle school to help plan the event.

Learning about MLK, too

The KMS Multicultural Club was also involved in teaching their peers about King by making announcements and setting up a table during lunch hour.

"It's a unique opportunity for student groups to come together and play a shared leadership role," Wong said.

Kiwanis, district administrators, School Board members and parents participated in the event.

"It's an opportunity for everyone, including myself, and the kids to give back to the community," School Board President Bob Soderberg said. "There's a lot of people in need, there's a lot of hustle and bustle going on and it's nice to take a step back to reflect on what's important and that we're here for each other."

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