Nonprofit organizations, government agencies, church congregations and retirees are what we often think of when we hear about people helping out and giving back to the community. In Bonners Ferry all these groups do their part and so does another group that doesn’t even have their driver’s licenses. Middle school students taking part in the leadership class at Boundary County Middle School focus many of their projects on helping and improving the greater Bonners Ferry area. The elective course taught by Kelly Hinthorn includes kids from sixth to eighth grade and has become so popular that there is always a waiting list to get in. The course teaches kids how to be effective leaders, accomplish goals and projects from idea to completion, and allows them to get creative in fundraising efforts.
A recent challenge from the superintendent pit the middle school leadership class up against the high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) program in an effort to see who could donate more hams and turkeys to those in need this holiday season.
“The kids know I’m competitive, and I’ve had most of the high school kids in class before so they know too,” said Hinthorn. Leading up the FFA group was Julie Smith whom Hinthorn has known since they attended high school together. In order to beat the older kids, the leadership class knew they would have to get creative. While hats aren’t typically allowed on school days, the class was able to convince the administration to allow them to be worn for a day at the cost of $1 per student. “We raised around $300 that day that all went towards purchasing turkeys,” said Hinthorn.
The middle school class also participated in the annual Jolly Jars event. Each student in the class decorated a mason jar to their liking. They then placed candy, hot chocolate mix and other goodies inside and students all over the school purchased raffle tickets to try and win their favorite one. Hinthorn even upped the stakes a bit, offering 10 free raffle tickets to anyone who donated a turkey or ham to the competition. Through the raffle, students were able to raise an additional $500. The competition got to the point that Smith’s seventh-grade son chose to donate a ham to the middle school team instead of his mother’s. “She was pretty upset and was going to be really bummed if they ended up losing by one,” laughed Hinthorn.
Local grocers offered a discount, and once the final donations were calculated the score was 82 to 56 with the leadership team coming out on top. In keeping the spirit of the friendly competition, members from the FFA group took the final step of gathering all of the ham and turkey donations and delivering them to the Ministerial Association. Despite a blinding snow storm, the bus made it to its final destination and the teens helped put together Christmas dinner baskets featuring the main course as well as side dishes for those who might otherwise not be able to afford it. While beating a group of older kids is certainly rewarding, Hinthorn feels the competition was another great reminder of what leadership in the community is all about. “I think they realized that giving back to others feels really good. We’re constantly trying to do projects to give back without expecting anything in return.”
As we get into a new year, the leadership class is already planning its next projects. They are currently working on an assembly presentation on human rights and anti-bullying which they will present to the entire school. In March, classrooms are given a team in theNCAA basketball tournament to root for. They do research about the university, its academic programs and tuition rates. Doors to the classroom are decorated in elaborate style, and kids really get into cheering on their team. There’s also a secondary message tied into the college spirit week. “This really gets them thinking about higher education and telling them yes, you can go to college even if you’re the first in your family to do so,” said Hinthorn.
Leadership class is also responsible for daily routine around the school. Students handle morning announcements, work the doors to let their peers in each day, keep the bulletin boards up to date, tackle the citizen of the month program and organize pep rallies among other obligations. “Middle school kids often get a bad rap, but these are truly good kids who have a lot to offer, and this is a really positive thing for our school and our community,” said Hinthorn.
From penny drives that go to benefit veterans to raising scholarship money through lap running in memory of a fallen little brother, these kids are truly making an impact in the community. This Christmas dinner competition will be back again, and you can believe Smith and Hinthorn will be ready for an even more competitive second season. Young people turn very quickly into tomorrow’s leaders, and it’s great to know that there are so many committed to this community and making it a better place for all.