Elijah Arispe

Youth activists, from left, are Elijah Arispe, Dameon Jackson, Eloise Gleaton, Serrana Gentry and Cullman Middle School teacher Katie McGee.

Cullman Middle School seventh grader Elijah Arispe has taken his year-end class project further than his teacher Katie McGee ever imagined.

The group assignment required students to select and research philanthropic issues such as homelessness, mental health and hunger. Groups then conduct interviews with experts on the topic and developed a “call to action” and find ways that they can make an impact in the community.

McGee is pleased her mission to “foster and cultivate” community mindedness in her students has taken root. However, she couldn’t have predicted Arispe’s enthusiasm.

Unbeknownst to McGee, Arispe and fellow group members Eloise Gleaton, Serrana Gentry and Dameon Jackson sent an email to The Times on May 10 describing their intentions to bring attention to the Cullman County Animal Shelter.

“We want animals to have a good home, so please donate to animal shelters of YOUR choice so that the animals could get new toys or their favorite animal food, or you could adopt an animal to give them a good, warm home...this is for the animals because so many animals are in shelters and don’t have a home, so please help them out,” Arispe wrote.

As the group’s call to action they have been actively collecting cans from students around the school and at home with the intention to donate to the shelter.

Shelter manager Andrea Hudson manager educated the group on laws which require animals to be contained or leash bound, and how awareness of these laws can decrease the amount of strays collected by the shelter.

Hudson says she was delighted a younger generation shared her passion.

“This really is a community effort here ... schools will donate toys and treats and cleaning supplies. It is absolutely encouraging to see young people developing a heart for animals.”

The group has no intention of ending their efforts after presenting their project on May 18. Instead all four members shared goals indicating future activism.

Gleaton mentioned hoping to bring more awareness to the ability to surrender animals to the shelter in lieu of abandonment. Jackson hoped to have a hand in helping the shelter create bigger and more outdoor facilities.

“I just want to make sure we help people get animals,” Arispe said.

McGee thanked other community members who helped with projects including: Officer Adam Clark with the Cullman City Police Department, Local author Caris Snider, Sam Dillender Superintendent of the City of Cullman Sanitation Department, Koty Trammell and Heather Eddy with The Link of Cullman, Cullman City Schools Mental Health Specialist Katelyn Bowling, CCS Technology Coordinator Michael Fowlkes and Rachel Salinger with the Cullman County Health Department.

Patrick Camp can be reached at 256-734-2131 ext. 238

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