Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Junior High student projects look to do some good

Editor | May 29, 2024 7:25 AM

Aiden Crosswhite brought speakers to the Columbia Falls Junior High to talk about misconceptions about Native Americans.

Harper Holloway, Ella Robbins and Eloisa Middlesworth created non-perishable food bags so less fortunate students would have something to eat at home on snow days.

All four worked to make a difference in their school communities. It was all part of the ongoing Extended Studies program at the school. This year’s theme was “Empathy to Impact: Using United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

Crosswhite was able to get local Native Americans Carol and Alfred Moran to talk to students about Native Americans life in Columbia Falls. He also was able to get Malia Kipp to talk about her journey in becoming a pioneer in college women’s basketball.

Annually, nearly 5,000 high school girls’ basketball players earn a full-ride Division I scholarship. In 1992, only one was Native American: The Blackfeet Nation’s Kipp. Kipp’s journey as a member of the University of Montana’s Lady Griz basketball team was the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Native Ball, Legacy of a Trailblazer.”

Crosswhite was also able to get the school district to use some of its Indian Education for All funds to buy seven titles for the library, including Rez Ball, Chasing Bigfoot and Two Tribes, among others.

Crosswhite said he personally hasn’t had many problems with being a Native American at the junior high and his peers treat him well. He said it was the adults who are the problem.

Holloway, Robbins and Middlesworth wanted to create a project that had a direct impact on local students, so they spoke to a nutritionist and decided to create non-perishable food bags.

“We know we have a lot of really bad weather,” Holloway noted. So they decided to create food bags with items like oatmeal, cereal, macaroni and cheese, canned fruit and other items kids could eat if they were stuck at home. They consulted with a nutritionist to make sure the items were healthy, but still shelf-stable.

Some students already receive free food through the school’s backpack program, but they wanted to create something that would supplement that, as many students rely on the free school lunch program for at least one meal a day. When school is out, they don’t get anything to eat.

“We wanted to help kids and affect our direct community,” Holloway said.

The girls were able to secure $600 in funding through the federal Emergency Management Agency RISE Challenge, a competition that seeks solutions from students in the event of natural disasters in their communities. The girls took fourth overall, beating out even high school kids for their project. They also received a  $325 award to split between them.

All four kids are eighth graders and will enter high school next year. They said they are already looking toward college. Robbins said she wants to study law, Holloway dermatology, Middlesworth marine biology (she lived in New Zealand for a year) and Crosswhite said he’s undecided.

Aiden Crosswhite with some of the books he was able to acquire for the junior high library.