By LEIGH PROM
Eagle Tech ninth graders at Franklin County High School are using what they have learned in their New Tech project-based learning program this year to help others in the community. Their integrated Biology-Health and Physical Education class not only taught them about healthcare but has allowed them to use their hands and hearts as well.
In February, the 73 Eagle Tech students launched an ambitious eight-week project in which they were challenged to raise funds and collect donations to make care packages for families residing at Roanoke Ronald McDonald House and Carilion Children’s Hospital. The students accomplished this by recruiting the support of local sponsors by sharing information they learned about common causes of illness and explaining the community need and why community partnerships are so vital.
The challenge was formulated after learning one family’s story about their experience with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and receiving a letter requesting help from Tyler Lee, Carilion Clinic Community Outreach and Development Manager.
A year ago former FCHS English teacher Brooke Norton gave birth prematurely to her son Evan. Knowing the family’s story of Evan being in and out of the children’s hospital helped birth the idea for the Bio Health class. The class reached out to Lee about working with the children’s hospital. They asked him to share with them how many patients the children’s hospital treats in a year, the leading medical conditions they treat, the national cost per year to treat those conditions and the best way they could help.
Lee painted a vivid scenario in his letter requesting their help.
“We have many families that are counting on us to treat their sick children,” he wrote. “They are scared, exhausted and unsure of what the future may bring.”
He reached out to Amanda Rucker, McDonald’s owner and Ronald McDonald House board trustee to be a part of the project as well. Rucker said she was impressed with the students’ project.
“I commend these students for having such big hearts and for their willingness to serve,” Rucker said. “I’m really impressed with the New Tech project-based learning program.”
The Bio Health class’s project also provided opportunities for the students to work on their written and oral communication skills as they learned how to professionally inquire about donations and how to present the proposal of a cause to a potential donor.
Ashly Sigmon, biology instructor, and Tara Gable, health and physical education instructor, were the Eagle Tech facilitators who worked with the students on the project. The facilitators were very proud of their students and indicated that every decision in the direction of the project was student driven.
Slone Lang, Eagle Tech Director at FCHS said she was not only proud of the students’ efforts but also how much she appreciated Sigmon and Gable for putting in a tremendous amount of time and effort creating an authentic project that allowed their students to learn more than just academic content while providing them an opportunity to demonstrate citizenship.
Donations for the project totaled $1,470. Student Kalee Clements led the charge for the project. One Sunday morning she made a presentation to her congregation at Redwood United Methodist Church requesting their help. During a special ceremony at FCHS, May 21, she was able to present Karrie Wills, senior director of pediatrics for Carilion, with a check for $729.
Of the remaining funds, $350 was given to the Ronald McDonald House with the balance used to purchase items for the 30 care baskets (containing things like personal care products, snacks, gift cards, etc.) to be given to families at the NICU and RMH.
The Tuesday ceremony was well attended with numerous representatives from Carilion, the RMH and Franklin County Public School administration.
Carl Cline, Carilion Franklin Memorial Administrator, whose wife and daughter work at the NICU in Roanoke was on hand to thank the students and to let them know they can go a long way in life by being kind.
Wills also thanked the students saying, “You don’t know how much this check means to the families. Your work, your dedication is amazing.”
The families will not be the only beneficiaries of the project. Students shared about what the project had meant to them. Student Samantha Menowsky said she’d been a NICU baby and was glad to have the chance to help future kids.
Classmate Kariyia Pickens added, “I liked that we got to help out the families and show them they’re loved and thought about.”
Fletcher Foley said the project was “eye-opening to see people going through things you don’t even think about.”
Stephen Sapienza said he appreciates how Eagle Tech gets involved with the community.
Clements said the class didn’t accomplish the task on their own.
“Lots of people helped out,” Clements said. “More people [at Redwood United Methodist Church] wanted to help than you knew about. Eagle Tech means a lot to me. It’s gotten me to come out of my shell. I love going into the community and sharing.”
Pastor Brad Dulaney of Redwood United Methodist Church said, the congregation was “blessed with the opportunity to give to those in need.”
“Kalee [Clements] completely took the initiative,” Dulaney said. “She was very well prepared and very clearly and succinctly painted the picture to the congregation of what the need was. I see Kalee as the model of our mission statement of connecting the unconnected to a community of faith where Jesus Christ transforms them into world-changing disciples.”
Lee said his biggest take away from the project was learning what the students took away from it.
“It was a true honor being able to have a hand in this project,” Lee said. “Carilion Clinic does an amazing job at educating everyone on health, but we also invest in our local schools, and as you can see this is truly an awesome return on investment. Our partnership with FCHS is very valuable to the future of our community.”