Students reach beyond academics to community service

Helping homeless keep warm by collecting blankets are, seated from left, Michael Holt, Joseph Breazealle, Matthew Walker, Bryson Goforth, Nathan Lowe, Jonathan Myers, Rhiannon Mills, Taylor Criss and Molli Hopkins. Standing from left, are Saul Hernandez, Carter Morgan, Rane Lamb, Tristan McDowell, teacher Melinda Guion, Logan McGavic, Bo Price, Emily Gladson, Kara Johnson, Sydney Rowell and Austin Garrett.

Helping homeless keep warm by collecting blankets are, seated from left, Michael Holt, Joseph Breazealle, Matthew Walker, Bryson Goforth, Nathan Lowe, Jonathan Myers, Rhiannon Mills, Taylor Criss and Molli Hopkins. Standing from left, are Saul Hernandez, Carter Morgan, Rane Lamb, Tristan McDowell, teacher Melinda Guion, Logan McGavic, Bo Price, Emily Gladson, Kara Johnson, Sydney Rowell and Austin Garrett.

There’s an important element of learning going on at Fairview Elementary School that won’t be found on any test results. The students at Fairview are learning about giving.

Through the six grade levels at Fairview, K to 5, elementary students have touched the lives of the homeless, the hungry, the elderly, refugees overseas, abandoned animals and their own fellow students.

“We try to remind the children there’s more to education than just academics,” said fourth-grade teacher Kathy Porter. “You have to take care of others.”

Principal Greg England said students at Fairview learn about helping others by helping different charities or community projects.

“It’s a benefit for the kids,” said England. “One of the things I hope we can achieve is helping kids see at an early age how they can help others and to realize that sometimes we need help ourselves.”

The homeless in Knoxville have third grade students at Fairview Elementary School to thank when the nights turn cold. The hungry in Blount County can thank fourth grade students at the school as well.

Recently the four third grade classes wrapped up their annual Blanket Drive for the Homeless. The three fourth grade classes also finished their annual food drive for Community Food Connection just weeks ago.

Melinda Guion is a third grade teacher and she said this is the second year the students have collected blankets for Knox Area Rescue Mission. “We started it last year and when we delivered the blankets, we never made it into the building,” she said. “There were so many homeless people walking up to us. There’s an overwhelming need.”

Guion said this year the teachers decided to advertise the blanket drive across the school. “The kids made posters, and we allowed them to bring in blankets for two weeks. We had blankets piled up in each room,” she said. “We had about 50 last year. I’m not sure how many this year, but we definitely have more.”

Third grade students Matthew Walker, 9, and Sydney Rowell, 8, shared their thoughts on helping the less fortunate. “We feel very sorry for them. We want them to be warm,” Matthew said.

“Some sleep in boxes and have newspapers to cover them, but when we donate blankets, they can be warm,” Sydney said.

Fourth grade teacher Kathy Porter said the idea for a can drive among the students came through her friend Ann Peterson, who is on the board of the Community Food Connection. “(Ann) was talking about how great the need is,” said Porter. She added that the project is another way teachers are trying to help mold well-rounded, productive citizens.

“We excel at academics, but you also want to take care of other people,” she said.

Porter said students enjoy knowing they’re doing something for the less fortunate and the principal echoed her comments. “They get real excited about it,” England said.

Fourth grade students Eli Everett, Kacie Harris, Felicity Blair and William Linney shared their thoughts on the food drive. “It’s for people who’ve lost their jobs and probably can’t afford (food),” Kacie said. “We get to help people who need food.”

“It’s important and the right thing to do for those who can’t afford it for themselves,” Eli said.

“We did it for homeless people. It was a really good cause,” Felicity said. “If they didn’t have food, they would suffer.”

“We did this for the poor, it’s a good cause,” William said. “It’s very important. It’s a good thing they have this food because it helps them survive.”

England said students throughout the school become familiar with the idea of helping others through group projects. The first grade students annually raise money to buy food for bears being rehabilitated at Appalachian Bear Rescue.

Kindergarten students participate in Pennies for the Playground for playground equipment, and they also go to Asbury Acres assisted living facility and sing to the residents at Christmas and make ornaments for them, he said.

The fifth grade students raise money toward an outdoor environmental classroom, and they do a farmers market where they make products to sell at school on a certain days, with proceeds used for beautification of the school, he said.

The first grade students help Operation Christmas Child. They collect items to go in shoeboxes that are sent to needy children overseas, England said.

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