TALLMADGE — The Akron City School District hopes to mirror the success of the Tallmadge Middle School Builders Club. Akron plans to offer the program at one of its middle schools when classes resume in the fall. Representatives of the Tallmadge club are assisting Akron school officials with implementing a sister club.
The Tallmadge Middle School Builders Club is a Kiwanis-led student organization that provides support to the local community and worldwide. Membership is open to Tallmadge Middle School students who are nominated by their teachers. Mark W. Fairhurst, a member of the Akron Kiwanis Club, says the Builders Club was founded at TMS a little more than three years ago.
At the time, Tallmadge Superintendent Jeff Ferguson noted "there were already several service-oriented programs and clubs for students existing at the high school level, but no coordinated service program or club really existed in middle school," Fairhurst said. "For many reasons, he sensed a community/service program that engaged middle school students would be worthwhile … and we’ve been going at 100 mph ever since."
The Downtown Akron Kiwanis Club sponsors the Tallmadge Middle School Builders Club, and Chad Nash, a science teacher at the middle school, is the adviser. Current projects club members are working on include painting fire hydrants in Tallmadge in coordination with the Tallmadge Fire Department, helping an orphanage in Cameroon with Project African Sky, helping daycare children with Childscape Project, assisting senior citizens by doing safety checks to assure their houses are safe with Senior Safety, and cleaning up the Freedom Trail in Tallmadge with Trail Cleanup.
Fairhurst says members of the Downtown Akron Kiwanis Club visited David James, the superintendent of the Akron Public Schools, this spring to share the success of the Tallmadge Builders Club. "That conversation was centered around using our Tallmadge Builders Club as an example of what could be accomplished within the Akron Public Schools," Fairhurst said. "Mr. James was impressed, and asked if we could help launch a Builders Club at Jennings Middle School. Currently, we are working through beginning steps and hope to launch an Akron Builders Club next school year."
At press time, Jennings Principal Charles D. Jones said he could not provide specifics about how the program will be implemented at his school.
"Builders Club gives students an opportunity to interact with their community in a positive way," according to Nash. "It’s a chance for them to show the community how great middle schoolers can be."
"At the middle school (level), kids can feel lost and they can feel like they don’t matter," Nash said. "Doing something like this where they can feel good about what they’re doing and see a positive change can be so powerful for them."
Esther Layton, 13, an eighth-grader at Tallmadge Middle School, is one of the 30 Builders Club members. "I have always loved helping other people," she said, "and it is really encouraging to see the smiles on people’s faces when you help them. I think that helping other people helps me."
Twelve-year-old Brooke Wagner said she joined the Builders Club with the hope she would make friends while helping others in the community. She’s looking forward to painting fire hydrants.
Grace Kostko, 14, said she likes helping senior citizens with improving safety in their homes.
"I spent my first eight years of teaching in the Akron schools," Nash said, "so this is like coming full circle. I believe it will work there and they could do some pretty neat things to address the community needs that they have in Akron. That’s the basis of this: Helping the students identify the needs in the community and then working from there to have the students design programs to improve on those needs. Rarely will we ever solve these big issues but we can make things better and kids certainly can be a part of that, too."
"The accomplishments sit squarely on the shoulders of these very energetic sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students, led by … Nash," Fairhurst said. "The club started with a simple idea, of providing a Tallmadge Senior Citizens Safety Project, where students would provide an in-home safety check, with the guidance of the Tallmadge Fire Department. Over the past three years the Builders Club has blossomed into a full-fledged and high functioning program including five community service projects, and two world-wide projects.
"The students who make up the body of the Builders Club are smart, resourceful, hardworking and most of all very kind. It’s sometimes hard to imagine where they find the time in between classes, studying, band, choir, sports, and robotics, to manage the Builders Club. I have to laugh when I hear people say today’s youth are lazy."
Reporter Ellin Walsh can be reached at 330-541-9419, firstname.lastname@example.org or @EllinWalsh_RPC.