Give Thanks, Give Back

January 9, 2012

The following is a guest post from Stephanie Immel, a 7th grade teacher in Georgia.  She led her students in a project that raised almost $1,200 for CARE for AIDS!  Read her incredible story here, and leave us a comment with your reactions or your ideas on how you could get creative too…

This year my school granted me with the challenge to teach 7th grade social studies. I’m a science person, a math person even… but teaching social studies introduced me to a challenge I was very unsure of how to approach. 7th grade social studies in the state of Georgia requires that students learn about the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. While all three are very far removed from the students in Alpharetta, all three are also very closely related to issues the entire world is facing and called to address.

The best way I know to teach anything is to help the students to learn how to connect the material with things they may encounter in their own worlds. With that in mind, thankfully I was able to get my hands on a class set of books called Three Cups of Tea by: Greg Mortenson that would expose my students to issues related to the Middle East and also, hopefully, inspire many of them to seek out opportunities to help others.

While reading the book many students began asking how they could help. During this time I was attending a group gathering on Friday nights called Cornerstone in Atlanta, GA. This gathering meets once a month on Friday nights in an effort to introduce single adults in the Atlanta area to service opportunities. This particular night CARE for AIDS was there to speak with us about their mission, efforts, and successes in Kenya. We also got to meet and hear from Cornel and Duncan. I was moved in so many ways to get involved with this organization and couldn’t help but start thinking about ways to help.

The next few weeks at school were a whirlwind of planning and excitement for my two social studies classes. I presented the idea of helping people in Kenya, as our Africa unit of study was approaching, and they all agreed it was a worthy cause. At that time we began our “Give Thanks, Give Back” campaign in my classroom. Students were asked to post on the door what they were thankful for just before going home for Thanksgiving. When we returned we began studying about the geography of Africa and how HIV/AIDS has affected the people living in Africa. The students were then asked how they could give back to others. The planning had begun! Now all that we had to do was have the idea approved. It took several weeks, but after many conversations I received approval to have the students raise money for CARE for AIDS.

Once the organization was approved the students and I planned to sell paper hearts for $1 each. One of the students spent an entire weekend cutting out our first set of 800 hearts. One kid… cutting 800 hearts… on their weekend! Those who purchased a heart were given the opportunity to write their name on the heart. All hearts that were purchased were then displayed on the wall outside of my classroom. 1,136 hearts later… my students asked the question… “Can we write them letters?”

I can’t even begin to express the excitement, the changed hearts, and the family that has been built between my students during this project. Every day they would ask me, “How many families have we saved?” My 7th graders exceeded the expectations of everyone who was working with them. I couldn’t be prouder!

Today we are mailing two months of brainstorming, love, and hard work to an organization that gives so much. Thank you to CFA for creating an organization that works so hard to help others and thank you for allowing my classes to be a part of it!

Stephanie Immel

7th grade science and social studies teacher

Webb Bridge Middle School

Alpharetta, GA