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Making a difference, one pencil at a time

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image Gifted Students at Summerfield Elementary made signs and announcements during the school’s morning program. In the end, they far exceeded their goals. Photo Mitch Traphagen

In today’s increasingly connected world, even the youngest of children are aware of global problems.

By Mitch Traphagen

RIVERVIEW — In days not all that long past, elementary school was strictly for the “three Rs” of reading, writing and arithmetic. In today’s increasingly connected world, however, those days are gone and even the youngest of children are aware of global problems.

At Summerfield Elementary School, a group of children in the gifted student program decided to do something about one problem. The students started with a plan, made goals and then worked hard only to exceed them. They may be elementary school children but they are making a difference in a problem of global concern.

Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. Going hand in hand with that are critical shortages of school supplies in the impoverished nation. Only about thirty percent of Haitian children reach the sixth grade and virtually all functioning schools in the country are private and funded by the international community, including the United States. Despite that Haiti’s constitution requires that education be free for all, the government has been unable to fulfill that obligation. The massive earthquake of 2010 has only further deteriorated an already dismal and tragic educational situation.

The students in the gifted program at Summerfield Elementary, however, saw the problems as something to work on rather than merely lament. The students learned that something as simple as a pencil is generally unavailable and would be treasured by many Haitian students. The Summerfield students made up signs and began encouraging their fellow students to donate supplies; they communicated their plan to help with the entire school via the school’s morning show.

According to Latoya Desamour, the Teacher of the Gifted at Summerfield, the students set a goal to collect 700 items for donation over a three-week period. By the end of the first week, however, they had already collected more than 1,000 items. By last week, they had collected 1,800 items and were hoping to finish the drive with more than 2,000 items.

“The kids are super excited,” Ms. Desamour said. “They are very smart and they are aware of the world around them.”

Indeed, in a classroom at Summerfield on a recent Monday, the students, ranging from second to fifth grades, organized and took inventory of their latest donations.

Mixed in with the chatter and laughter was a seriousness of purpose. They knew the importance of each and every item.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to estimate the impact that 2,000 items (pens, pencils, glue sticks, folders, notebooks, and so on) will have. It will be difficult to gauge how much that will mean to children who have next to nothing to call their own, to children for whom survival is a challenge and obtaining an education is part of a gauntlet of obstacles they face. It is difficult to imagine what those 2,000 items will mean  for so many unseen children to know that other children in the United States cared enough to do something to help them. It is difficult to measure, yes, but not difficult to know. The students at Summerfield Elementary worked to make something happen that changed the world for the better. They did something good for others who needed help.

The students in the Gifted Program are Alvin Wu, Andrew Shelton, Angele Garcia, Dalton Palmer, David Espinoza, Elizabeth Hackett, Heather Route, Jasen Patubo, Joshua Andre, Kayla McLoone, Kyle Murray, Lance Morton, Leigha Howell, Madison Westley, Marcos Morales, Meagan Tuthill, Mia Alanis, Michael Whiles, Nevaeh Garcia, Perla Gonzales and Savannah Dale.

Each one, and every student at Summerfield Elementary who pitched to help, made a difference in the world. They are children leading the way towards a better world. They are making a difference, one pencil at a time.

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