JJHS Leadership Class WOWS Amway with Poverty Challenge

Jenison Junior High School, Jenison Public Schools, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge, Hand 2 Hand, fighting hunger

Photo courtesy of Angela Nelson, Amway.

Few things in this life are more inspiring that young people using their voices to fight for the voiceless. This January, the Jenison Junior High Teen Leadership Class had the amazing opportunity to do just that when they were invited to present their findings on global, national, and local hunger issues to the Amway Community Relations Team of West Michigan. Their hopes? Securing a $3,000 matching grant to benefit Hand 2 Hand Ministries of Hudsonville.

Mrs. Williams, the teacher and “mentor” of the class, says that the core message of their studies always comes back to servant leadership. So when the opportunity presented itself to give back to an organization already partnering with JPS (Hand 2 Hand), Mrs. Williams jumped at the chance to have her kids learn about food insecurity and chronic hunger.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Jonah Smith

Jonah Smith was candid in his remarks, “I never really thought about any world problems until I got into this class. Now I think about things like hunger all the time.”

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Nick Nawrocki

Classmate Nick Nawrocki agreed, saying that learning about food banks, bridge cards, WIC, and programs like Feeding America “made things more relevant [to him].”

Working as a team, the class toured Goodwill to get a holistic idea of basic needs in the area. They also learned more about the ministry of Hand 2 Hand, which fills up backpacks of food to discretely send home with undernourished or “food insecure” participating students over each weekend. Teen Leadership students were amazed to learn of the high percentage of Jenison students in need of food assistance.

“Kids our age might know what a food bank is or how to shop at one, which is kind of sad. It seems like they’re losing their childhood — like they’re growing up too soon worrying about where their next meal will come from,” commented Katherine Flessner.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

The Teen Leadership Class shares their experience in the Junior High Media Center.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Veronica Howe

Veronica Howe described how, after spending weeks gathering data about hunger problems, the class created a PowerPoint and crafted an oral presentation to be presented at Amway with the hopes that they will match the $3,000 Jenison students have already raised for Hand 2 Hand this year. Upon arriving at the plush offices, all agreed that it felt good to be treated as a professional.

“It was cool at this age to be put in this professional environment. Everything was very big and expensive and when we got to our seats there were even gift bags for us!” Nick said.

“When we went to Amway, not only did they listen to us, but they were willing to give feedback. They were really honest and were willing to give pointers and offer constructive thoughts,” added Tabitha Hill.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Tabitha Hill and Katherine Flessner

“The coolest part of the whole experience was that even if we don’t get the grant, we brought tears to the adults’ eyes because of our passion and what we shared with them. One person even made a personal donation to our cause!” said Faith Stanton.

Jenison Junior High, Teen Leadership Class, Poverty Challenge

Faith Stanton

Mrs. Williams watched this all unfold with a smile that said it all. Her desire to help shape the next generation of concerned, compassionate, and ethical leaders is obvious.

“I was merely a facilitator, coordinator and vehicle for these students to realize that they do and will impact the future.  I rest easily at night knowing that this group of young people will be leading our way some day. I do want to give HUGE amounts of appreciation to Michelle Meulendyk, David Byrne, Tom TenBrink, Brett Cataldo and Kristy Rogalla for their help in coordinating this project and belief in the abilities of 8th graders. Thank you!”

8 comments on “JJHS Leadership Class WOWS Amway with Poverty Challenge

  1. This is fantastic! As someone who has had a working relationship with both Amway and Hand 2 Hand in the past, and is now a JPS parent, it is wonderful to hear about these organizations and our very own students collaborating for the benefit of our own community. Way to go JPS! I’m so proud!

  2. Awesome job! Great job understanding that even if they can’t change the whole world, they can change someone’s world. Compassion and advocacy go hand in hand. Very proud of these students!

  3. This is another testimony to our terrific school district. Now I hope that Hand2Hand can expand to send sack suppers daily in addition to the weekends. The need is so much greater than most realize. Great work, students!!! Kate B.

  4. Thank you Mrs. Williams and class for being the voice and hands to many many hungry kids and families.. You will all be great leaders and voices in the community for many years to come. Way to go !!

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