St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message


Kids in charge

At Seven Springs Middle School, students have taken the reins in a community service program. Obesity, multiple sclerosis, reading skills: These kids tackle them all.

Published February 7, 2007

[Times photo: Zach Boyden-Holmes]
Jillian Summer, 14, makes a necklace recently at Seven Springs Middle School. She is part of a program in which students make and sell jewelry to raise money for a Multiple Sclerosis program.

TRINITY - For seven years, drama teacher Cindy Tehan successfully applied for a Florida Learn and Serve grant. She used it to support a drama program that teaches character education to students at Seven Springs Middle and the surrounding elementary schools.

But this year, she thought: "Okay, we've got this up and running. Now what?"

The answer: Turn it over to the kids ... for the most part.

The result: Lead the Pack, a new class at Seven Springs Middle School funded by an $8,000 Florida Learn and Serve grant.

About two dozen students applied for the class, which blends specific learning objectives with hands-on service projects.

The class tackles myriad issues, like obesity, reading skills for elementary students, social inclusion for handicapped students, battery recycling, Toys for Tots and multiple sclerosis.

Students like Joey Powers, Lauren Courtney, Michelle Procida, Matt Nuzzo and Casslyn Fiser have taken the helm to help oversee and even lead some of the eight blossoming service projects.

"It's a great class," said Lauren, an eighth-grader who is heading the "Good Habits Good Health" program with Joey. "It's the kind of class that makes you not want to go on to high school next year."

Lead the Pack students prepped for their responsibilities with a special leadership workshop at the adjacent Gills YMCA.

Then they reviewed grant proposals from teachers and approved funding - from $50 to $500 - for eight of the nine proposals that came their way.

One proposal came from gifted science teacher Susan Stokkey, who wanted to jump-start a battery recycling program. Another proposal came from intensive reading teacher Janet Tolson for a reading program that matches her students with youngsters at Longleaf Elementary. Yet another came from art teacher Jan Mallett, who thought that having students make glass beaded jewelry would be a good way to raise funds to fight multiple sclerosis, which she was diagnosed with two years ago.

A core group of students make the hemp and bead necklaces, bracelets and key chains. They recently filmed a commercial for the morning news and have created an informative brochure that is packaged with each piece of jewelry. The money earned goes to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation's Brighter Tomorrow grant program to help patients obtain equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches and eyeglasses, Mallett said.

"It's a great opportunity to have the students be able to learn about a real devastating illness and to make the jewelry and donate that - to give back," she said.

All the while, Lead the Pack students follow each program's progress, creating scrapbooks, making display boards and filming five-minute iMovies to be shown on the district's education channel and possibly the school Web site.

"I wondered how this was going to work - giving all this power to the kids," said Tehan, adding that she is hoping for a bigger buy-in from fellow teachers next year. "It's really worked out well. They really take it seriously."

On the Web

For information on Florida Learn and Serve grants, visit

[Last modified February 7, 2007, 08:08:17]

Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters