By Tiffany Green
West Elementary has a rich history of academic excellence, as well as a passion for helping the community.
“We are teaching them to serve and to be good citizens,” said Kristy White, sixth grade reading teacher and student council sponsor.
West Elementary’s mission statement is to provide a superior educational experience where students succeed academically and socially while developing an appreciation for the arts, our community and our country.
Dr. Elton Bouldin, the principal, said the school follows this mission statement by building relationships between school, home and community when the students help in charitable organizations.
“As the principal of West Elementary, I believe that one of the most important things is preparing our students to be good citizens,” Bouldin said.
Bouldin along with his staff are committed to building the students character through community projects the students participate in.
“The students enjoy this, and my faculty teach the children how to be good citizens when helping these charitable organizations,” Bouldin said.
Canned food drive
One of the organizations the school is committed to helping is the local food bank.
The school donated a total of 2,867 pounds of food to the Cullman Caring for Kids food bank.
“That’s pretty close to what we do every year,” White said.
White said the students learned where the food from the food bank goes and how the students are helping their own community.
“I let the students do all the work,” White said. “When we went to the food bank, the students saw first hand where the food goes. It let the children see there are people right here in their own community that use the food bank.”
Many of the students did not know there was a food bank in Cullman.
“We were giving to people in need of food,” said Seth Donaldson, a sixth grader and member of the student council. “I think it is good the food bank is helping other kids.”
The students hold a food drive every year. This year Mrs. Sanders’ fourth grade class won the food drive at the school with 265 pounds.
“We just had tons and tons of food,” White said. “Every student was encouraging each other to bring donations. It was a friendly competition between the students and classes.”
Not only do the students participate in the annual food drive, they do other activities throughout the year to raise money for charitable organizations.
Bouldin said the school also participates in the Christmas Love project, where they raise money to buy Christmas presents for children from the school.
Guidance counselor Lisa York is passionate about the project. She has been counselor at the school for 15 years and has been helping with the Christmas Love project every year.
“Christmas Love has turned into a big project,” York said. “Other agencies, especially St. Andrews and Standard Furniture and other individuals, help sponsor our children and their families.”
She said it is something simple the children do: just bringing in a dollar, and all the dollars added up will sponsor the children.
“I think it is very important to help others. Not all people are as fortunate as me and my family,” said sixth grade student Kara Jackson. “It hurts me to know other kids don’t get everything that we have.”
She knows the money and gifts go directly to fellow students.
“Everything goes to help our community and people that need it,” Jackson said.
York said a lot of the students who receive aid do not know they are helped by their fellow students.
“I usually do gift cards so the parents can go pick out gifts for their family,” she said.
York wants the students to learn the real meaning of Christmas.
“The kids really do get excited about helping others,” she said. “If we ever have left over money, we use it throughout the year for other needs the students may have.”
“Some people don’t have Christmas, and we do so we can help,” said student Jackson Hill.
Branch Hill, a sixth grade student, wants to encourage every student to help.
“We are encouraging our entire school to give,” he said.
Relay for Life
Another project the school is passionate about is Relay for Life. School receptionist LaQuita Dixon has a special place in her heart for cancer awareness.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. We felt like we wanted to give back,” Dixon said. “The school was so good to me during my treatment. It’s a personally thing for me to help our community.”
The school won second place for Relay for Life fundraising in 2007.
One fundraiser the school has to support cancer research is annual Alabama versus Auburn penny drop sponsored the Beta Club.
“The money will go to help find a cure for cancer,” said Oakleigh White, a sixth grader.
Laura Addison raises money for cancer research for personal reasons.
“One of my best friends’ dad died from cancer, and he was not very old,” she said.
Drake Hollingsworth, a sixth grade Beta Club officer, said he was glad the Crimson Tide got a victory.
“The important thing is that Alabama won,” Hollingsworth said.
Physical Education does it part
The physical education department does its part to help out the community.
They participate in Jump Rope for Heart to raise money for heart disease.
“All the money helps fund life saving heart and stroke research. All the money goes to the American Heart Association,” said Emily Stapler, physical education’s teacher.
She said the kids really get involved in the jump roping and have fun with it, while they are raising money for a good cause.
“The kids get to show their talents and have a show,” Stapler said.
Stapler said last year they invited the community to a show featuring the jump rope teams.
“We raised an additional $500 taking donations at the door,” she said. “We raised several thousand dollars last year.”
‰ Tiffany Green can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 221.
By Tiffany Green
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