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West Valley Middle School students purchase toys for area’s less fortunate

West Valley Middle School English teacher Amy Crawford is incredibly proud of her eighth-grade students.

Last week, they completed “Mission Unstoppable,” a learning exercise Crawford created to teach her students about service and leadership, reading and following directions and the joy and pride felt when giving to others.

This is the second year Crawford has empowered her students to earn money and purchase toys for the Mission of Hope. The students raised $2,615.97. The toys they purchased will be donated to impoverished children in rural Appalachia.

Crawford reported 100 percent participation. She hopes that the project will demonstrate what teenagers are capable of.

“Basically when a hundred and forty teenagers set their minds to do something, it gets done in a major way,” she said.

Crawford gave her students a set of guidelines and she enlisted the help of volunteers, mainly parents, to help shop for and assemble the toys on “Workshop Day,” one of only two schooldays she took to complete the task. She also asked that parents support their children as they perform extra chores to fund their efforts. Crawford stressed the importance of children earning the money rather than parents donating it.

She divided her classes into groups and each named a captain and a treasurer. They set financial goals and brainstormed ways to earn money and toys they’d like to buy. Crawford had only one rule — that they buy one toy, which had to be assembled. “This is a reading class after all,” she said.

On “Workshop Day” Crawford’s classroom was filled to the brim with toys of all kinds, among them were art tables, wagons, basketball goals, tricycles, a drum set and a miniature pool table. Students also purchased games, dolls and stuffed animals.

Students Chelsea Sparkes, Rachel Moore, Melody Leibman, Zach Warnock and Patrick Berry raised $165 dollars as a team. Each had his or her own fund-raising method. Sparkes mowed her grandmother’s lawn, while Moore babysat. Warnock also did lawnwork and detailed a friend’s car, and Leibman raked leaves for her aunt.

After helping to assemble an oversized Barbie playset, Leibman was more cognizant of the work her parents put into her own toys.

“They always came assembled,” she said. “I feel a lot more respectful now.”

At the end of one of her classes, Crawford congratulated her students. “You guys did great; I couldn’t be prouder,” she said.

Nearing the end of the project, Crawford wrote a letter to her students’ parents sharing her pride. “I have learned the true spirit of giving from our students this year,” she wrote. “They have gone above and beyond what I ever thought possible. Anyone who says teenagers are selfish and egocentric should stop by our classroom. It will take your breath away.”

Peter Nelson offered to help students assemble the toys, witnessing their enthusiasm first hand. It was “very rewarding,” he said, to watch his daughter, Lauren, work on the project. “She learned to give,” he added, “the whole point of this exercise.”

It was important to Crawford that her students remember who would benefit from their efforts. “We focused on the kids in Appalachia,” she said. “We are so privileged and have so much.”

That was the best part of the project for Jennifer Dobbins. “Knowing that what you’re making is going for kids who usually wouldn’t get something like this,” she said.

Gabe Green shared why he worked hard to earn money. “All this is going to kids in the mountains who aren’t gonna have a Christmas,” he said.

Crawford added, “Just imagine if teachers did this in all the schools across Knox County.”


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