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(Left to right) Chasity Hoskins, Destiny Bottoms, and Maliah Hill stand in front on their "Stop Cyberbullying" booth as part of their service learning project for the American Character program with the Liberty Learning Foundation inside Slocomb High School's gymnasium.

Geneva County seventh-graders have been learning about how united efforts can make significant impacts in their respective communities.

More than 200 students from Geneva County, Samson and Slocomb middle schools shared their 27 service projects with an exposition Monday to show the community what they’ve been working on for the last 18 weeks as part of the American Character Program.

One group of students started a campaign to end cyberbullying, something they identified as a significant problem affecting their peers.

“There’s so many people coming up to us and saying that they are getting cyberbullied, and it’s kind of sad because we don’t want anything to happen to them,” Destiny Bottoms said.

The group created posters with supportive messages at their school and shirts reading “Stop Cyber Bullying #WorldWideChangers” and a pledge to challenge people in the community to sign their names signifying their commitment in helping solve the problem.

Maliah Hill hopes their project will help put an end to the need for the word “cyberbully.”

Another group created a clothing closet for all age groups at Slocomb Middle School.

“Sometimes it’s hard for other children to come to school because they think they might be picked on for what they wear. Their clothes might be too big or too small. We really wanted to help out others,” Addison Lawrence said. “We see people every day, people outside walking and people in school, who have holes in their pants and shirts.”

They solicited donations from the community with word-of-mouth and social media and created a partnership with the Walmart on South Oates Street to provide some new clothes.

Lawrence, who organized the project for her group, said she’s already seen the impact it’s had, when a girl at school was uncomfortable last week in a pair of jeans too small. The counselor was able to bring the girl to the clothing closet and get her a pair of pants that fit.

Raelee Whitaker, a Slocomb student, said her group dedicated its time to creating activities for Day Spring Hospice residents and participating in a fundraising event.

Lesson on life’s end

At the beginning of the project, students didn’t know what hospice was. Through research and interaction with the owner of Day Spring Hospice, who became their mentor, they learned that hospice takes care of elderly and terminally ill patients.

“I feel like they need the most help because of what they’re going through and their families,” Whitaker said. “They’re families are going through a lot.”

The group created ornaments for the patients and is in the process of creating scrapbooks for them with pleasant memories the family can look back on.

“They’re very eager to do for every family,” said Donna Hendrix, executive director of DaySpring. “I would say that the biggest impact is that these families, anybody that reaches out to love and support them, and the fact that they’re kids makes a tremendous difference — that they took their time and were interested in helping because we have a lot of elderly, too, and they love getting things from kids at school.”

The American Character Program, implemented by the Liberty Learning Foundation, teaches middle schoolers lessons in character, history, civics, and financial literacy. During their 18-week lessons, they were paired with local mentors to develop and begin service projects.

Many students created recycling and conservation programs. Others collected food items for homeless and less fortunate people. One group reached out to U.S. Sen. Doug Jones to affect change at its school. Another created a campaign to bring awareness to the dangers of vaping with the help of a local doctor.

“These are things the kids identified,” Penny Kinsey, Liberty Learning Foundation’s educational director, said. “After they identify these problems, they get back in their teams, and identify a solution.”

She said the goal of Wednesday’s exposition was to allow the students to showcase their hard work and verbally articulate what they’ve been working on and the obstacles they encountered along the way.

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