As part of a pilot program, a group of eighth grade students at Hawthorn School District 73 built a business plan for their own charity and soon will be sending a supply of bracelets and lollipops to juvenile cancer patients.
The program involves a new class called “integrated math and science.” Teacher Mike Sementa from Middle School South said the class, which only has two sections, is more like an entrepreneurial studies class.
Students had to choose a cause they support, review possible ways to help, select a profitable project, create a budget, build a schedule and execute the whole thing.
One project involves building small kits filled with supplies so a cancer patient can make a bracelet. The other involves selling lollipops and suckers for $1 to fund a year’s worth of lollipops for children who experience a metallic taste in their mouth known as “chemo-mouth.”
“Cancer is random. You don’t really get a choice, and a lot of times people who do all the right stuff still get cancer,” said Alyssa Curtis, an eighth grader at Middle School South. “That means we’re all kind of in this together and should help each other. It’s not really anyone’s fault.”
Through networking with nonprofit “Handing H.O.P.E.” Hawthorn’s money will make “lollipop trees” for juvenile cancer patients at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Sementa said.
On certain days, the two classes work on making baggies filled with string, beads and other items that can be used to make bracelets.
Eighth grader Tory Jordan said the project is a lot of work, but worth it.
“I usually like to help people because it makes me feel good inside, and I’m pretty sure it makes the other person feel good too,” Jordan said. “I’m excited that this helps a lot of people.”
The choice of causes was something personal for the class.
“We chose cancer because a lot of people in the class have had family members sick or even die from cancer,” Jordan said. “We want to help people get through treatment by having something to do and for them to know there are a lot of people who care about them. Actually, we really hope these bracelets become symbols of someone having beaten cancer.”
Steven Hart said he’s put together six bracelet kits so far and most of them involve blocks that spell the words “hope” and “strong.”
“Those words might not mean much right now, but when you’re always tired and scared, they have mean a lot more,” Hart said.
Sementa said the class is actually a high school-level curriculum.
“This was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Like a lot of stuff in teaching, this is more than just a textbook. It’s real world experiences,” Sementa said. “In a lot of other classes you get students say ‘Why do we need to know this?’ or ‘Why does this matter?’ but in this class, you get a visual and practical use out of things like algebra, time management, writing, and so forth. Plus, as is evident, we’re teaching these kids to have meaningful participation in society.”