Heroes' event moves students to think about others
Role models highlighted at Middletown Elementary
Several hundred parents, police officers, scientists, soldiers and other heroes walked the halls of Middletown Elementary School on a recent school day.
Students dressed as their role models on April 17 as part of Heroes Day, one of the school's Character Counts activities centered on the concept of heroes.
The heroes-related activities kicked off April 14 with a student assembly led by Gabe and Mary Margaret O'Neill, a Holly Hills father-daughter team that started Kids Are Heroes, an organization that seeks to recognize and inspire children to give back to their communities.
After being fired up by the duo's presentation, all the school's students chose their own heroes and wrote papers about why they look up to them.
Losha Lautenberger, a fourth-grader at Middletown, wore a white-collared shirt and glasses to resemble his father, who is a scientist. He is Lautenberger's hero, he said, because of his dedication to helping others, as well as to his family, and because Lautenberger aspires to be a scientist when he grows up.
"He has a job where he's a scientist and he makes medicine for people for cancer and stuff. It makes him a hero because he's helping other people and pretty much saving lives," he said.
But just emulating role models was not the only purpose of the heroes-related activities. There was also a more forward-looking aspect to the fun, during which students were encouraged to come up with ways they can work to help improve the world.
The outpouring of ideas has been enormous, inspiring students and teachers alike to come up with active ways to volunteer and do good works, said David Shafer, a guidance counselor at the school who dressed as his father for the event.
"We're having so many students who want to do things for animal shelters, cancer, Pennies For Peace, Locks of Love. It just goes on and on. That was the whole purpose was to get kids inspired by a cause and to get them interested in helping people in a little way or a big way," he said. "We want kids to look at a cause and have a passion and know that they can make a difference."
Fourth-graders Morgan Weaver and Corrine Murphy took the service idea and ran with it, creating what they describe as a "business" called "Sweet Treats and Tiaras," through which they plan to raise money for animal shelters by hosting bake sales and walking and bathing people's dogs. They also hope to set up a box in the school to collect dog care items to donate.
"We both have a self-interest in dogs so that's why we wanted to get going with this," said Murphy, who was dressed as her hero, her World War Two veteran grandfather. "We both have Shih Tzus, so they kind of inspired us. We felt sad that dogs only survive 30 days at some shelters so we wanted to change that."
Shafer said the ideas that have been generated through the heroes activities are too numerous to pursue, but teachers and staff were so moved by the student response that they are working to coordinate more volunteer and service activities for students, and hope to host a yard sale fundraiser later this year.
"It was a great thing for kids, but it also inspired and encouraged the adults," he said. "… You see that people do good things, and that small things can add up to big things. I guess the message is you can make a difference. Whether it's for people, for animals, or for the environment, you really can do something positive."
E-mail Connor Adams Sheets at firstname.lastname@example.org.