Student Council members earn $5,000 grant from Special Olympics

The Student Council members at Margaret Buerkle Middle School are launching a seven-week interdisciplinary unit, Step Into My Shoes, or SIMS, to teach their sixth through eighth grade peers about bullying, acceptance and helping others.

To fund the activities and guest speakers planned for the unit, which will begin on Monday, Oct. 3, two Student Council members applied for and received a $5,000 grant from Special Olympics Missouri’s Project UNIFY.

“We are planning a seven-week service learning curriculum designed to help students become aware of who they are in this world, what’s the difference in themselves and others, and mostly, how it is okay to be who you are. Activities will also include teaching students to become advocates for others, learning to be kind, bullying awareness, and using service learning activities to benefit the student body and community,” according to the grant proposal written by eighth grader Samantha Inman and seventh grader Rhiannon Creighton.

Throughout the seven weeks, students will participate in activities focused on five main themes: value, kindness, respect, responsibility and service, according to a news release. The Student Council will launch its SIMS project with a guest speaker, Karen Dawson, who will give students an overview of the project and talk with them about the first theme of the unit, value.

The school also will host an Abilities Awareness Day on Wednesday, Oct. 26, where several community members will host activities and presentations for students, teaching them about the different abilities the students should value in one another.

“We would like to improve the view and outlook of the lives of our middle school students by teaching them about acceptance, dignity, and advocacy for all people. We hope to make a difference in our school and transfer that out to our community and the area we live in,” Inman and Creighton wrote in their grant proposal. As part of the culmination of the unit, students will create their own ideas for service to others.

The Student Council members and their advisers, teachers Cathy Helfrich and Susan Weedman, will evaluate the success of their project through student surveys before and after the unit. MBMS teachers also will evaluate the students’ progress during the hands-on activities and will check with students for comprehension following each lesson.

Special Olympics’ Project UNIFY is a national program funded by the U.S. Department of Education.