By Nicole Lafond | THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2015
For the past month, Unit 4 middle schoolers have been appreciating the value of their pencils, folders and books just a little bit more than usual.
In September, the non-profit Thankful Thinking visited all three Champaign middle schools and put on what Jefferson Principal Angi Franklin called a “powerful” presentation about the needs of school children in the country of Zambia in southern Africa. During the assemblies, Mahomet native Brett Melton, a former Illini basketball guard, and wife Talia, who was born an orphan in Zambia, challenged the three schools to help raise money to buy supplies for students in Zambia by donating pennies and loose change.
Hence the Change for Change program at Jefferson, Edison and Franklin: Up until Nov. 2, students, faculty and staff at all three schools will compete to see who can raise the most money. Talia has promised to create one of her penny mosaics for the winning school, and Franklin set up her own incentive at Jefferson: the principal will cook breakfast for the winning classroom, and the teacher whose class wins gets a day off work.
We asked Jefferson students and staff: Why is this cause important to you?
TOMMY HOLLINGSWORTH : 6th grader
“I think because they don’t have it so if we do give them that, they’ll be able to have stuff we have.”
TERREN WILSON : 7th grade teacher
“We’ve really been talking about what community service is and why it’s important to help children in Africa that are underprivileged, which is what the pennies are going toward.
“And we’ve been teaching the kids about how right now they may not need help, but in the future you might need the one that needs that extra support and the community is going to be there to help you. We’ve been focusing on that.”
MATTHEW FRERICHS : 7th grader
“It’s pretty important because some stuff they’re not able to have. Like, a random pencil is everywhere. Everyone has a pencil here and everyone has a shirt and clothes and other resources, but the kids in Zambia don’t have a ton of that.
“So it helps a ton — even if you only donate one penny, it still helps to give them food and school supplies.”
TATIYANA PEPPERS : 7th grader
“It’s important that we help them so they can get an education just like anybody else in our country. Education is one of the most important things that anyone can have and I don’t feel like anyone should take that for granted, so I feel like they deserve an education as much as anyone else.”
MAKAYLA BROWN : 6th grader
“If we didn’t have that stuff, we wouldn’t be as smart and we wouldn’t know the stuff we know today. Like, if we didn’t have pencils and we didn’t have desks and things that we need to learn.”
SALMA ELNAGGAR : 8th grader
“Because there’s a lot of other unfortunate people and they need to go to school and probably want to have a job and they have dreams like every other kid does.”
BRYAN LAM : 8th grader
“It’s important for them and I basically just like helping others. If I see someone in a wheelchair trying to open a door or something, I’ll help them because a true person would do that.
“People should collect money for them so they can be a great person and be thankful for each other.”
Have a question that you’d like N-G education reporter Nicole Lafond to ask of students, teachers or administrators? Our inbox is open for submissions — email [email protected].