ESCANABA - Sixth-grade students at the Escanaba Upper Elementary School are learning a lesson in philanthropy by lending a helping hand.
Approximately 90 students in Michelle Dykema's language arts class at the Upper Elementary have been participating in various philanthropic projects in the community throughout March.
Dykema has had her students work on philanthropic projects for about three years now, she said. Part of the inspiration for them is a book her classes read called "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson.
Mortenson's memoir follows his attempt to climb K2, the world's second-highest mountain, which is located in northern Pakistan, in 1993. During his journey, Mortenson got lost and stumbled upon a poor village that treated him kindly and inspired him to give back by raising money to help build schools for the less fortunate in Pakistan and Afghanistan - which he continues to do today.
"We learned all about what a philanthropist is and how he (Mortenson) is a philanthropist and we did studies on other philanthropists in the world - everyone from Michael Jackson to Warren Buffett to your grandma," she said.
"From that, now we're reaching out to the community. Now we're going to be philanthropists, so it's building on what we've learned and learning more about the word and how we can extend out to the community to be a philanthropist."
Students were allowed to work individually or in groups on their projects, which ranged from students helping the elderly at a nursing home to collecting cans to raise money for an orphanage, reading to children at a daycare to helping younger students practice softball.
Students Hunter Moberg and Justin Malmstead decided to purchase toys to give away to kids in need.
"Some people aren't as lucky as others and their parents can't afford toys for the kids, so we're going to give them toys that they can play with and have fun with," said Moberg.
Some projects were simple, yet made a powerful statement.
"I'm drawing pictures for people that have cancer to see the smile on their face when they receive it," said sixth-grader Gage Sischo, who noted he was inspired by family members who passed away from cancer.
Others, like Madison Pullin and Madison Ash's group, were quite visible in the community. The two chose to have a bake sale at the Delta Plaza Mall to raise money for the Delta Animal Shelter and raised $485.
"I think my favorite experience was when we went in to give them the money and seeing the faces that they had," said Pullin. "They were so thankful for us."
Another group chose to make and sell bracelets to their classmates during lunch to raise money for one of the student's mothers who is battling cancer.
Student Riley Bray has chosen to donate some of his and his family's clothes to others in need.
"I did have a lot, so I felt that it would help me sort through my closet and help other people too - so it was good for everybody," he said.
Another student chose to simply help her elderly neighbor by shoveling a path for her.
"They really did embrace it and they really did want to help," said Dykema of her students, noting throughout the year, her classes read many types of literature that teach students lessons.
"When someone writes a story, a lot of times they're to teach us something," she said. "A lot of these books are helping to teach us something and the kids are getting it and they're doing that. They're great kids who want to help people. They have really kind hearts."