Hudson -- A life-long love of knitting has turned a high school service learning project into a lesson of colorful smiles and patterned squares which could benefit someone in need.

Emily Laws, 16, is a senior at Hudson High School. As a senior, Emily elected to take an interdisciplinary course, service learning, which combines English and American government, with a focus on hands-on social justice activities.

Emily teamed with Denise Lukingbeal's second grade class at Ellsworth Hill on the project.

"I chose the quilt project because quilting is something I know how to do and something I do well. I've been quilting for 13 years and when I talked to Mrs. [Denise] Lukingbeal about what to do for my second quarter project, she was so excited to learn I did all these arts like sewing and knitting," Emily said. "She told me in years past when she's done a project with a class they've make one of the blankets where you tie the squares together and the students had a lot of fun with it so I proposed doing a quilt."

The second graders, with the help of Emily, designed 24 quilt blocks, each one about a 9 1/2-inch square.

"I think Mrs. Lukingbeal was really amazed when I came in with the first four quilt blocks, which the students had designed the previous week and the blocks looked so much like the ones the students had drawn on the graph paper," Emily said.

Emily, who plans to attend Hiram College next year and major in computer science with a minor in physics, took the student designs home and made the quilt squares.

"Student reactions when Emily brings back their quilt square transformed into a real fabric square is endearing to see," Lukingbeal said. "They are captivated and mesmerized with how their drawing/patterns have been transformed by Emily overnight into a beautiful piece of art."

The class hopes to donate the quilt to someone in need, Lukingbeal said.

"Emily and I feel good about helping to teach children at a young age empathy for others and being aware of others in need," Lukingbeal said. "Emily has been making quilts for hospice for three years."

According to Emily "the quilt is totally random."

"The number of pieces in each block depends on what the student designed. The quilt is totally random. No two squares are alike because each student designed their own block," Emily said. "The class is the whole reason I'm doing the project and it's really fun to see each child's creativity come out in the colors and patterns they design."

Martin Bach, a U.S. History teacher at Hudson High School and Lanni Banner, a Hudson High School English teacher are the service learning instructors.

Seniors are not required to do a service learning project.

"Students apply and interview to be in the program. Fortunately, the administration is looking to expand the program next year so we can accommodate more students," Bach said. "We do a variety of service projects throughout the year, including working with our local retirement homes, assisting First Glance, a center for teen moms in Akron, and student-initiated random acts of kindness projects. Our culminating activity is our week-long trip to Adams and Brown Counties in Ohio for an Appalachian Service Project."

Students receive three grades for their projects, one for social studies, one for English and one for service learning.

According to Banner, the service learning projects are student driven.

"Students complete five hours a week at their service placements. During this time, they sit down with their site supervisor and ask them 'what do they need' to address the needs of the population they are working with," Banner said. "For example, the needs at Access Women's Shelter in Akron are very different from the needs at the Akron Blind Center. Then, students design and implement a project for the organization."

Other student projects include creating 600 cards with phrases and visual cues to assist with literacy, assisting with the Summit County Prosecutor's Office Child Safety Awareness Calendar contest and designing and building an eco-friendly outdoor hand-washing station that potentially uses rain water.

"We have 65 students -- and 65 diverse and student-driven projects," Banner added. "Students work with over 60 agencies in Summit and Portage Counties - from Harbor Light Hospice, to the United Disability Services, to inner-city Head Start organizations. We encourage our students to let go of me to focus on the greater needs of all of the community."


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