MUSKEGON, MICH. (WZZM) - Each year, dozens of West Michigan students show their holiday spirit by collecting toys for our School Spirit Challenge.
The massive toy drive benefits the annual Toys For Tots campaign. Toys for Tots' goal is to have every West Michigan child wake up with a new toy on Christmas morning. And, this year, the WZZM 13 Morning News is showcasing the kids and schools who try make that happen.
One of those schools is Muskegon Middle School.
Members of the student government, are spearheading the school's toy drive. However, it is just one of the many ways they give back.
They've spent the past few weeks collecting toys for less fortunate children. But, throughout the year they've been involved in nearly a dozen activities, that range form raking leaves for neighbors in need to collecting canned foods for the Salvation Army Food Drive.
Their advisor, Kitty Turner-Terry, said students' grades must be "on point" to participate in student government. However, the students excel beyond academics. They are civic minded, student leaders who understand the importance of service.
"I always tell my students, the ones who have petitioned to be in student leadership council, we need to give back. And, it doesn't hurt not to get paid either. You are all doing it for charity and if they give to the community, the community will give back to them in the long run," said Turner-Terry, who is also a health teacher.
Student Government President, Jasmine Goins, says Turner-Terry has taught them to look out for each other and others.
'And to not, be so self-centered. She reminds us to think, 'I may have this but what about the other kids that don't have a chance to get this toy or get these shoes.' So, basically, we do these charities and stuff to give back to the children and maybe even the parents to help them tell their kids, you are going to be okay," said Goins.
Turner-Terry, along with eighth grade teacher Ardena Duren, also advises a group of girls who are members of "Young Ladies of Excellence." They meet once a week for mentoring and empowerment.
"The young ladies all have some type of potential. But, they don't realize their potential," said Duren. "They were selected by their teachers as girls who could benefit from having something extra to do after school that would help them in the middle school transition."
The girls are identified as students that have some challenges or struggles they need help overcoming. The program works to boost their confidence and self-esteem as well as give them better tools to deal with potential obstacles to their success.
"We talk about goals. We talk about things they struggle with personally in he classroom. And, we just encourage them to be the best they can be," said Duren. "We have a good 40 minutes or so that we dedicate to them getting their work done. If they don't have work to do, they are reading or socializing. And, then we move into our empowerment portion of it. We have our circle time where we sit down and discuss that struggled with and things they were proud of."
Turner-Terry said the girls look forward to meeting each week.
"Our young ladies at Muskegon Middle School need to know that we care," she said. "Once they realize we realize that we do care and we are with them 100 percent. They will give us all the attention they need and they will strive to be excellent."
"Through the process, from November to May, we see a big transformation in the young ladies," said Duren. "We hear testimonials weekly of them getting 'As' in certain classes where they were once struggling, because they feel empowered and feel they can do it."
These two groups at Muskegon Middle are among several providing valuable life-lessons to children. Another is is called "Boom Youth."
Together, the members, work on health and wellness issues, including building, nurturing and growing their own garden on campus. They even provide cooking lessons. The students said they're committed to healthy eating and bringing people together. This summer they did that by holding a Farmers Market at the school. Some of the students said they believe the program has the ability to transform lives.
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