KANELAND—Samantha Garcia, a Kaneland High School senior, recently shared some advice to a first-grader. However, the first-grader wasn’t enrolled in the Kaneland School District. Rather, Garcia’s words traveled to a low-income neighborhood in St. Louis, Mo.
“I explained my life and how I hope they’re doing well in school,” Garcia said. “And to really take it seriously because it’s their future. Stay in school and give it your all.”
Garcia is one of 75 students in the Knights’ Armory, a special education study skills class at Kaneland High School, who participated in the recent St. Louis Project during Kindness in Kaneland week, Oct. 13-19, as part of the events celebrating kindness throughout the Kaneland School District and its surrounding community.
The St. Louis Project involved Kaneland staff and students in the Knights’ Armory adopting a first-grade class of 19 students at Nance Elementary School.
According to Sandy Faletto, case manager and Knights’ Armory special education teacher, students wrote encouraging letters to first-graders about the importance of kindness and helping others, and to be a good reader and do their best in school. Kaneland staff, administration, parents and some students pitched in to provide needed school supplies.
“I told my students about this (St. Louis Project) idea,” Faletto said. “They wanted to be involved and kind of pay it forward (with) kindness.”
The first-grade teacher on the receiving end of Kaneland’s kindness was Kathleen Kuhar, 23, a Kaneland High School graduate and Teach for America educator who works with students who are economically disadvantaged. Most of the children are African-American and receive free or reduced lunch.
Kuhar said that she was surprised and grateful by the offer from Mrs. Faletto.
“It is amazing that they reached out and picked me and my students, and reached out and have gone above and beyond to help us out,” Kuhar said. “Now my kids get their own notebooks, which some have and some don’t.”
At least four boxes of school supplies were donated, filled with tools like notebooks, folders, pencils, crayons, markers, dry-erase boards, coloring books, glue sticks, rulers, index cards and gently used children’s books.
Faletto and Beth Trafton, a special education teacher, drove to Kuhar’s classroom to personally deliver these special supplies on Friday.
“That way, we could not only take pictures of the students, but maybe create a video to bring back for our students to see what their kindness did,” Faletto said.
In the meantime, Kaneland students have learned how giving can be a good thing.
“It feels really good giving them supplies and everything after hearing their story about how they have practically nothing,” said Devin Allen, a KHS sophomore. “A lot of the kids don’t have enough pencils to go around or notebooks or anything.”
Jessica Henery, a KHS senior, said she learned some lessons from participating in the project.
“If you’re able to help out, it’s a great feeling to be able to help out kids that aren’t fortunate to have what we have,” she said. “And sometimes if you feel down and you do a good deed, it makes you feel better about yourself and it gets you further in life.”