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Learning how to change the world at Glenwood Middle

Anna Hall spearheaded a collection drive for the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Laney Treacy filled backpacks full of school supplies for children in need. Lindsay LeTellier put together blankets and craft kits for young children fighting cancer.

The students are among 12 eighth-graders in gifted and talented resource teacher Kelly Storr's leadership class at Glenwood Middle School in Glenwood. They led expansive, successful efforts to improve their community by creating service learning projects after reading Sean Covey's best-seller "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens." In short, Storr said, the leadership class — the first of its kind at Glenwood — is focused on helping students become leaders.

"They have to learn to prioritize, be proactive rather than reactive, and learn how to put themselves in win-win situations," Storr said. "Examining how to do that through 'Seven Habits,' I think, was the best way to do that."

After reading the book, Storr asked her class what they would do with what they had learned.

"They said, 'We want to give back,' "she said. "So, they did."

While Anna collected toiletries, cosmetics and snacks for soldiers, Laney stuffed backpacks and Lindsay delivered blankets and crafts supplies. Other students were hard at work at their projects.

Sean Elia collected goods at his church for a food bank in Baltimore. Bailey Anderson, Emily Chandler and Lexi Hack put together a talent show for entertainment at a senior center in Westminster. Tori Day collected pet supplies for a Columbia animal shelter. Marisa Patsy worked with the Fisher House Foundation in Rockville, which provides free or low-cost lodging to veterans and military families being treated at military medical centers. Jacob Miller created a Web stie exploring the pros and cons — and community impact — of red-light cameras. Matt Pasquino tutored other students in math.

Austin Weider collected money for Heifer International, an organization that provides farm animals to families in third-world countries. When he began his project, social studies teacher George Lovera said if Austin collected more than $300, Lovera would spend a school day in a cow suit. Austin wound up collecting $438, and on Thursday, March 28, Lovera was true to his word, spending the half-day before spring break in the bovine costume.

Storr said the leadership class was a chance for students "to shine in something they're passionate about.

"Middle school is the time to do that, because you don't know what you're interested in and you don't know where life is going to take you," she said. "High school is so regimented, that if you don't take the chance now to explore all your opportunities you might not know what your passion actually is."

The students picked their projects based on their own interests. Tori, for example, loves animals, and Anna collected items for the Armed Forces because she's part of a military family, and her awareness of soldiers' needs "hits me at the heart."

The students have been working on their projects for most of the year, and most have been wrapped up. Reflecting on their work, the students said it was important to remember that even the littlest thing still can make a big difference.

"This shows that anyone can do what you want to help others," Tori said. "You don't have to be a grown-up. You can be a kid and still make a difference."

The students did acknowledge that they are young, but their service projects taught them that the world doesn't revolve around them, Anna said, and they want to do what they can to make a positive change wherever they can.

"I think this shows our humanity," Emily said. "Sometimes, it fees like adults think, 'This young generation that's going to be running our country one day, they're lazy and they don't do anything to give back.' ... This is a small class of 12 people, but it's a way to start to show people that we're not just going to sit back and watch bad things happen."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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