Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 22, 2018

MP Middle School students see fruits of their labor

Principal delivers 150K meals packaged for families in hurricane-ravaged Texas
May 31, 2018
Photo by: file photo Mt. Pleasant Middle School students worked diligently in April to package 150,000 meals, which have already been delivered to hurricane-ravaged Texas. Principal Nathan Lange says he plans to have students continue to give back.

By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News


Mt. Pleasant Middle School students are ending the school year this week celebrating the accomplishment of packaging 150,000 meals that were donated to people in Texas who are rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey hit last August.

A video that will play in their last school assembly will highlight from beginning to end raising money to package 150,000 meals; the three days of packaging in the middle school gym in April; volunteering in the community by planting flowers, going to nursing homes, pouring concrete and cleaning up parks; and finally delivering the food to devastated Vidor, Texas.

Lange said his students continued “the American way” — a phrase Vidor residents used when he delivered the meals to them — in volunteering after catastrophe. Especially considering the hard work the students put in, quickly surpassing the original goal to package 125,000 meals.

“We need to instill that inside of our kiddos,” Lange said. “When you get students behind a cause and believe in wanting to give back, students get a sense of purpose,” Lange said. “When you can get that focus off self and more on the bigger picture, that’s a life-lesson that keeps on giving.”

Lange left for the 15-hour drive to Vidor May 17 at noon, returning to Mt. Pleasant only a few days later on May 20. The time in between, he dropped the packaged meals at a shelter where they will be distributed to Vidor residents, was greeted by the Vidor police chief, the school’s superintendent and featured on the local news channel.

Lange’s travel companion was Jerry Ruschill, who donated a truck to help transfer the packaged food. A 53 ft. van was also donated by Moutrie Trucking.

It felt good for Lange to take a product, packaged in his hometown by his students, load it into a truck and deliver the meals to a place of need. Community-focused volunteering is vision Lange said the middle school administration and staff is continuing to work toward. It’s a part of teaching the whole child, including civic engagement with the math, science and reading curriculum.

“It was a catalyst of conversation,” middle school teacher Jeremy Klopfenstein said about the food packaging event. In Klopfenstein’s classroom, students were told if they got caught up on school work they would have the opportunity to participate in this community service project.

“The amount of kids who got work done or asked for help to be able to participate in the community service day was mind blowing,” Klopfenstein continued. “That’s one of the take-aways for kids. You’re more than reading and writing and math. You might not be good at that, but you can be good at being helpful, being supportive and solving problems.”

With the spring semester kicking off in January with middle school students going to see the newly-released film “Wonder,” a motto for the year became “choose kindness.”

This is something that was continued as administration and teachers revealed to students in March that they would get to participate in this food packaging event.

With 16 percent of the funds for the meals, which cost 25 cents apiece, donated by community members, the rest of the money was found through big, private donors. More important than donations, however, Klopfenstein said the 240 community volunteers is a powerful learning component to volunteerism.

“There is value in having sponsors come in and package with our kiddos,” Lange added.

With the event behind them, Lange is ready to bring his administration back to the table for discussion on what it will look like next year.

The middle school first participated in packaging meals on the last day of the 2016-2017 school year. This year, Lange chose an April date to have time to follow-up with students and continue instilling the spirit of community service.

The future holds even more expansion for the middle school’s involvement in volunteer projects. Lange hopes to continue the meal packaging event, beginning promotions and fundraising before Christmas.

“It’s healthy for the middle school, for our students, for us as a whole,” Lange said. “Every year we want to make this sustainable, manageable and grow it. We would like to expand on it even more in regard to a community focused initiative within our own community and the culmination of something in the end like the food packaging.”

The video was created by Pastor Jared Haley, of Salem Friends Church. Klopfenstein said the video will be released on social media soon.

“Keep your eyes open. It will make the rounds,” Klopfenstein said.

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