Hands reach out to give, not take

Students develop real-world projects that help others. "And what you put into it, you get back," one finds.

By PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE, Times Correspondent
Published January 10, 2008

SPRING HILL -- One student collected new shoes for people in developing countries. Another cleaned up litter. A third planted trees.

Under the guidance of social studies teacher Ann LaPlant, Gulf Coast Academy seventh-graders have been busy since September looking for ways to support their community.

The students have been enthusiastic and imaginative about the projects and seemed to understand the reasons behind the assignment.

"I think that helping others is important, because everybody needs help sometimes," said Miranda Brozik, 13. "And if you want help from somebody, you need to help somebody. It's kind of like karma."

Miranda held a carwash to raise money for drawstring bags, which she filled with hygiene products and distributed to Jericho Road Ministries Homeless Shelter.

"I think it's a great opportunity to help people in your community and people around the country," said Noah DeWitt, 12. "And what you put into it, you get back."

Noah received trees from Hernando County Parks and Recreation and helped plant them at the Suncoast Trail. He helped keep them watered and hopes they will provide runners with a cool place to rest and shade to keep cars from becoming too hot.

Jesse Lamonaco, 12, defined what he thinks of the assignment. "I think it means to join our community and help one another. When people help one another, they help back."

Jesse prepared emergency packages for victims of domestic violence at the Dawn Center. He collects packs of toys for the children of the abuse victims. He received help from several businesses including Joni Industries Inc., Chik-fil-A and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His mother held a food sale at Spring Hill Regional Hospital and collected about $700. "There was this one guy who paid $100 for one burrito," Jesse said.

Eric Dalebout, 12, focused on Haiti with his project. Eric has chickens and he advertised at his school that he had fresh eggs for sale. "I'll donate the money to the Haiti fund we have at our church (St. Francis Cabrini Catholic Church)," he said.

Other student projects: