Students recognized for service project

By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

A service project for a high school class morphed into an exceptionally large project that merited recognition from the Henry County Board of Education.

Five students - Vidal Butler, Cam’Ron Coleman, Amani Johnson, Josh Powell and Damion Rosser - were cited by the school board at its Dec. 12 regular meeting after collecting more than 80 bags of shoes and clothes under the direction of their government teacher, Misty Leach. Her class is a mix of students at Henry County High School and the Academy for Advanced Studies.

In the first six weeks of the fall semester, these students identified a need to be met through a service project and then solicited the help of students all over their massive schools to reach their goal.

Leach wanted to work a service learning project into her class and found a “good citizen” tie-in through the government class that was a perfect opportunity. She divided her students into groups of four or five, and they found community-based projects ranging from right inside the high school to various locations in the area.

This particular group chose to work with Soul Project, an organization founded in 2007 by a man who came to the United States from Ghana, where he rarely if ever wore shoes. When he saw the abundance of footwear in this country, he decided to help put shoes on as many people in Africa as possible. One member of the student group attends church with a local Soul Project representative and that helped spur their decision, Leach said.

They assembled color flyers and distributed them all over the campus. Then they concentrated on every third-period class, promising a pizza party to the class that contributed the most to the cause. That motivation led to a small army helping out all over the school.

“Those five students bought the pizza themselves,” said Leach. “I threw in the drinks.”

The results could only be described by Leach as “amazing.” The Soul Project rep who drops off boxes at various schools said she is fortunate to find one half-full when time to pick up donations.

“When she saw how many bags they had, it was hysterical,” said Leach, adding that one teacher at the school filled a bag by herself simply by going home one weekend and cleaning out her closet.

The students bought their own trash bags and gave them out to every classroom, going back to purchase more when they ran out. The result was more than 80 bags filled with shoes that will go to Africa and clothes that will be given to homeless people in Atlanta.

There was an academic component to the project as well. Each group had to identify a need and quantify it with data. They produced PowerPoint presentations to bolster their pleas for help.

Since the government class was the first part of the semester under AAS block schedule, there was a relatively tight window to get things done. As it turned out, the entire project was completed by fall break - six weeks after school started.

“They didn’t waste any time,” she said. “They got right to it. I think they were even surprised by what they were able to do.”

Soul Project presented certificates to the students in addition to the recognition they received from the school board.

“It was great,” said Leach. “They did a wonderful job.”

Oh, and she gave them an A.