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A lesson in service

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Rocky Mountain Academy students learn the value of community projects

By Deb Hurley Brobst

Students at Rocky Mountain Academy of Evergreen definitely were in action on Friday.

The entire school spent the day doing community service projects, not only in Evergreen but in Conifer, Idaho Springs, Golden, Littleton, Lakewood and Denver. Plus, they listened to speakers from several organizations, including nonprofits helping children battling serious illnesses and children in Guatemala, and they learned about military service from the Clear Creek Veterans Coalition.

“Part of the mission of the school is not only to educate our children … but to teach them to be good citizens,” said Christine Emery, a parent volunteer who coordinated the school-wide effort. “As we’ve gone along, we’ve tried to encourage the students to reflect on why they are doing (community service) and why it’s important to others.”

Community service day has been a longstanding tradition at the school, and this year students wore red “RMAE in action” T-shirts.

Emery, who is passionate about the need for students to give back, said she hoped the students felt empowered by what they could accomplish even at their young age.

“They have the power to be the difference,” she said. “Great things happen when people come together as a community.”

Helping animals

The kindergartners in Emily Smit’s class collected donations and money for Foothills Animal Shelter and took their donations to the shelter on Friday. They toured the facility, perusing the dogs, cats, bunnies and even a snake available for adoption.

Shelter representatives visited the kindergartners at their classroom a few weeks ago to provide information about the shelter and to give students a list of things the shelter needs, said Jennifer Strickland, the shelter’s director of community relations. On Friday, the children got to see the animals they helped.

The students collected donations of food, toys, treats, cat litter and other items from their classmates at school and took up a collection that netted $202.40 for the shelter.

Strickland said the money donation was a welcome surprise.

Assistant teacher Frances Vaughn told stories of the children donating their money to the animals. One story was about Lexie Geiger, who brought a dollar to buy a snack after school.

“She said, ‘I want to give the dollar to the animals because they need the money more than I do,’ ” Vaughn told Strickland.

Lexie’s story was indicative of the way the children understood the meaning of community day.

“We’re helping (the animals),” said Maya Hyslop, 6. “We donated food, toys and treats.”

Lexie added: “We donated so (the animals) can stay alive and have food. They don’t have food.”

Military service

While the kindergartners were helping the animals, second-graders were learning what it’s like to be in a branch of the military from members of the Clear Creek Veterans Coalition.

“We decided not to talk about war,” said George Clark from the coalition. “We decided to talk about who else was in the military and what life is like and why it’s important.”

Clark brought military hats and clothing for the children to try on.

“We talked about uniforms and what it’s like to be in the desert and Antarctica,” he said. “The second-graders are just loving it … and I’m having a blast.”

Second-grader Hayden Hyslop learned that soldiers wear different clothing for different weather and in different places, and that servicemen and women help the country.

“They help our country stay safe,” second-grader Abbie Geiger added.

CPR and empathy training

All middle-school students received CPR training from Evergreen Public Access Defibrillation and Evergreen Fire/Rescue because, as one volunteer put it, with the training, they could help save a life.

The eighth-graders learned about how disabilities and aging change people’s ability to do things, and that the best way for them to learn about disabilities was by doing.

They tried to go through a door in a wheelchair, pick up tiny objects while wearing large gloves, have a conversation while wearing earplugs, put cream cheese on a bagel with the use of only one arm, and get things out of cabinets while using a walker.

Eighth-grader Scout Easton tried to thread a nut onto a bolt while wearing gloves.

“It’s really really hard if your hands don’t work,” she said. Jokingly, she added, “It makes me not want to get old.”

She said the empathy training, plus helping her grandmother recuperate from surgeries, taught her that sometimes people have trouble performing basic tasks, and they need help.

After finishing the empathy training, the eighth-graders went to Life Care Center of Evergreen to talk with residents about their lives and how their disabilities have affected them.

Parent volunteer Kelli Anderson said the empathy training showed the eighth-graders how simple acts can be difficult for some people.

“These kids live in a bubble,” Anderson said. “They are healthy and well taken care of. This lets them learn that some people struggle.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com.