Fourth-graders at Vineyard Ranch Elementary School are giving back year-round and not just during the holiday season, thanks to the Fourth For Others club.
The group gives students an early start in helping out both on campus and in their community.
The club’s major projects include a food drive to benefit homeless peers in the North East Independent School District, as well as volunteering with special-needs learners.
“It feels really good to give back because every little act or deed makes the world a little better. We’re just starting it from elementary school,” said Tyler Jacobson, age 10.
The club recently wrapped up its annual food drive for the McKinney-Vento Homless Project, an outgrowth of a federal program for transitory students, and collected 3,044 nonperishable items for their families.
Members wanted to top the 1,700 donations collected in 2018.
“A lot of times the kids don’t realize that there’s homelessness going on within our district,” said Brittany Wynn, club co-sponsor. “The fact that we have this McKinney-Vento Project that supports those students, we know directly where the food is going and it’s going to kids just like these kids.”
Wynn teaches fourth-grade math, science and social studies. She has sponsored the club since 2018 with language-arts teacher Kerry Amo.
“When I first started, our food pantry consisted of one shelf on a bookcase and that’s all the food we had. It has evolved with the support of the district, the community and friends,” said Kristy Wagner, who’s been a McKinney-Vento project liaison for nine years.
A competition among the grades to see who could collect the most resulted in the second-graders winning with 840 donations, which netted them a pizza party.
For the food drive, the student-led Fourth for Others created an awareness campaign through posters and videos aired on the morning announcements, and decorating boxes so people knew where to drop off items.
“We provide them with that information and from here we kind of let the kids take over,” Wynn said.
The club was created in 2013 by Sunny Brown, a former fourth-grade teacher who felt the school — recently opened at the time — needed a service club.
“It would have been great to have a group like this when I was in school. That long ago it seems like no one thought students at the elementary level could assume responsibilities like this,” said Principal Diadra Williams. “Thankfully things are different now.”
There are 45 members in the club and each had to fill out an application. Many students said they applied because they wanted help the less fortunate.
“I feel like we should get what we give and give what we get,” said Brett Sholiton, age 9.
Every fourth-grader who signs up gets in, but they review with sponsors expectations and meet twice a month on Tuesday during lunch. They are also asked if they’d like to work with students with special needs in the alternative learning environment program, or ALE.
“It’s not only about other people. We focus on the kids in our school and we’re trying to help them,” said Sragvi Madishetty, 9.
Sragvi and other club members each day go to the ALE classroom and help pack the children’s belongings and take them to their classes. Club members also interact with ALE students during recess and in the halls.
“It just makes me smile just seeing the kids and I love to just hang out with them and play,” Sragvi said. “Just because you’re different doesn’t mean (you) have to be treated differently.”
With the annual fall food drive behind them, club members are working on projects for spring. In February, their programs will focus on kindness.
Wynn said fourth-graders are the perfect age to learn about the act of giving.
“I feel like the younger that we can start showing how they can help, how simple it truly is to help and how easy it is to influence others to help, I think that we are able to continue to push that through every single year and hopefully it’ll start a trend,” Wynn said.
For more, email Wynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.