A group of teens from Kelly A. Burlison Middle School have chosen a philanthropic path with a drive to make the community and the world a better place.
Green Teens is a new club this school year. When it comes to helping out and making a difference, these students are paving the way.
"I teach ecology as part of my science curriculum, and we spend some time researching how humans impact ecosystems," Cassandra Mills said. "After doing a few engineering projects to remove ocean trash, I had a group of girls come up and ask me if they could form a club to help clean up our earth and improve our community."
Mills became the sponsor for Green Teens, and they began meeting and implementing ideas right away.
"They started meeting and discussing ways they could make choices to reduce single use plastics in their own homes," Mills said. "Our teens found some information on reusing mascara wands for rescued animals, and they set up a donation station at the school."
Mills said the teens paired with the local Boy Scouts to start an aluminum can recycling program at the school, and have even made Christmas and Easter gifts for local nursing homes.
"Sewing came about when the fires started raging in Australia," Mills said. "One of the students brought an article about crafters sewing joey pouches for rescued animals and they voted that they wanted to do it."
Green Teen Jamie Wigger said she wanted to help Australia and the koalas because they needed it, and she wanted to keep the koalas warm.
"I always love to help everyone, and when I heard we could help animals I really really wanted to help," Green Teen Elizabeth Buff said. "I also love animals so much. I want to help every animal in the world, big or small, mean or nice, rabies or not. I love to help."
Mills said, she and the group were not familiar with the art of sewing before the joey pouch project and enlisted the help of Mrs. Long.
"After some research, I realized the pouches needed to be constructed with sewing machines, so I found another teacher, Mrs. Long, to come in and teach us how to use sewing machines," Mills said. "Mrs. Long was wonderful coming in early mornings and teaching us all how to use them."
Mills said she had just learned how to use a sewing machine when the project started.
"Once I got the hang of it, I was able to help students one on one learn the basics," Mills said. "It's been as much of a learning process for me as my students."
Mills said sewing is something that many people don't really practice anymore but is a huge money saver as well as good for the environment.
"The more things we can fix and repurpose, the less that ends up in dumps," Mills said. "It is also something that gives students pride. They learn a new skill that can help them express themselves. It's a way to give back to their community, to save money and to help the environment."
Wigger said she likes to sew because it makes her feel happy and peaceful. She said, in her eyes, it helps bring people together.
The completed pouches were sent off to a Missouri hub to be shipped off to Australia.
Mills said after the sewing project the students expressed interested in adopting koalas after reading about their endangered status.
"We adopted two koalas from the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie Australia," Mills said. "Their names are Cresent Head Jimmy and LINR Anwen. Essentially we paid for medical care and food for a year."
Mills said the koala adoption would not have been possible without the donation of koala cookies from Unique Cookies. She said the community has been really wonderful and supportive.
"Everything that the kids do is initiated by them and voted on by the group," Mills said. "I am more of a facilitator of the group and I just make sure they accomplish whatever goal they set out to achieve."
Mills said the students are learning to be productive members of society, so they can make a difference in the world. She said they are learning empathy, pride and stewardship.
"Our motto is to be the helpers," Mills said. "Their mission is to improve the quality of our community's environment by partnering with community leaders, area businesses and neighbors to work together to create a safe and clean place to live and work for future generations."
Mills said the next goals of the group are to use the extra fabric to make pet beds and toys for local shelters, purchase fruit trees for the local community garden, donate supplies to the cat pack service and plan a spring cleanup to beautify the town.
"We are currently selling cans of soda to raise money for the fruit trees and supplies to plan the trash cleanup," Mills said.
If you would like to help the Green Teens in its efforts, the group is currently in need of natural fiber fabric, fleece and stuffing for the pet beds and toys, as well as yellow or orange vests and easy reachers or grabbers for the cleanup. Any donations can be dropped off at Kelly A. Burlison Middle School and directed to Cassandra Mills.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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