Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Resurrection First Graders 'Make A Difference' For Others In The Community

Resurrection first-graders hold signs indicating the total amount of money collected by "Make a Difference " First Grade Style" projects.

Most of us take for granted the way we open a can of food, according to Rylan Bright.

A first grader at Resurrection School in Evansville, Bright realized some people don’t even own a can opener, so they can’t open a can of food. When his teachers tasked him and his classmates to “Make a Difference – First Grade Style,” he knew what organization he wanted to help.

Resurrection first-grade teachers Jennifer Meyer and Jennifer Schmitz gave their 22 students $5 each and challenged them to “make a difference in their community” by raising money, items or donating time to benefit a charity, nonprofit or person of their choice.

For his “Make a Difference” project, Bright used the donations he collected to buy 50 can openers and donated them to St. Vincent de Paul and the Tri-State Food Bank to help people get food when they need it.

“So no one has to be choosy on what cans they can get,” he said.

First graders presented their projects and what they learned to an audience of parents and grandparents on Feb. 6 in Resurrection Catholic Church.

“Every year I’m amazed with the different projects they come up with, things that I would not have thought of,” Schmitz said.

In response to Bright’s donation, Schmitz said officials at St. Vincent de Paul and the Tri-State Food Bank told her they’ve never had someone do that.

“They called him a hero,” she said. “And I never would have thought of it (donating can openers).”

Schmitz said the Make a Difference project is a “real blessing” that excites kids and parents. She said kids will make posters to promote their project, and some parents help their child create a video and post it to social media.

“I’m trying to teach them to look outside themselves because we all can be selfish,” Schmitz said. “We all think number one first and these students here, most of them are so blessed. They don’t have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from; they’re not worried about their health. And they’re finding out there are people out there who actually do need our help.”

Ellyson Wassmer’s family fosters cats, and they’re currently fostering one named “Mama” Rose. So she chose to support Another Chance for Animals, a group of people who volunteer and foster animals. Through donations from family and friends, Wassmer collected $1,435 and pet food for the organization.

“I'm very thankful for this project that taught me what it means to help others and give back to my community,” she said. “I'm also happy to see how many people love and care for animals just like I do. I learned that with help from family, friends and our community I can make a difference.”

Taylor Nettles was determined to prove that despite being a young girl she can make a difference.

Nettles made a video about alopecia, and asked her parents to post it to Facebook. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss. Her sister, Abby, was diagnosed with it when she was 18 months old.

Nettles raised $550, and donated it to two organizations that help people with alopecia: National Alopecia Areata Foundation and CAP Kids.

“I believe that God gives each of us a giving heart. … With God’s help, I make a difference,” she said.

The 22 first graders raised more than $9,520 this year.

The project started nine years ago, Schmitz said, and in that time students have given back more than $52,000 to the community. She said the project inspires many students to help again.

“I have students from the past who have said every year they try to do something just to keep up that tradition,” she said. “It’s rewarding to see that. … It’s neat to let them see that everybody is God’s creature and we should help them.”

The Message photo by Megan Erbacher