Students turn Nobody into a real Somebody

Holy Cross CES - Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board - Who Is NOBODY?

Hailey Garvey and Julia Hughes knew their good work had paid off when they handed a worker at the local food bank an envelope bulging with $302.10 in cash.

Hailey and Julia, Grade 7 students at Holy Cross School, organized a concert -Julia’s dad played bass guitar -to bring in money and groceries for the food bank.

Our main focus throughout the year has been respect, this is a way to enhance respect for themselves and for the community— Tina Noble, teacher

“When we went in we saw some of the racks with the dented cans,” says Hailey. (When we gave her the envelope) she looked like she had a sigh of relief on her face.”

That’s not the only good deed achieved in Tina Noble’s Grade 6/7 class this year. Students organized silent auctions, clothing and bottle drives, cookies sales and flower plantings in front of the Marlborough Street school.

The philanthropy is part of a character-building program called Who Is Nobody? It started when a suitcase arrived in the classroom in March. Inside was a two-foot-sized doll called Nobody, an ethnic-and gender-neutral figure made of cloth, without a single adornment.

The idea is that children, working alone or in pairs, come up with a way to help living things, including people, animals or the environment. When students have completed a project, they attach a symbol of their work to the doll. Hailey and Julia hung pictures of food fastened to string around the doll’s neck. The goal is to make Nobody a Somebody.

Some of these kids didn't believe in themselves, the class was very challenging. They were used to hearing - You're in trouble— Bev Hamm, youth worker

It’s a simple idea that is having great success as schools across the province strive to include character education, introduced by the McGuinty government a couple of years ago, into the curriculum.

“Our main focus throughout the year has been respect,” says Noble. “This is a way to enhance respect for themselves and for the community.”

Agata Jarkiewicz and Alyssa Francis, both in Grade 7, decided to turn their love of reading into their charitable project. Agata made a list of the books she’d recently read, then contact the authors asking if they’d send her autographed copies. The signed books are being auctioned to raise money to buy more volumes for the school library.

“Since I liked reading, I wanted others to like it, too,” says Agata.

Brook Gage, also in Grade 7, organized a towel drive for the local SPCA. She asked for donations of used bath and tea towels and facecloths, which are used by the shelter to keep the animals comfortable. A deal she made with some local hotels to donate their stained towels will continue in September.

I'm completely blown away by the changes in these kids— Arden Smelser, social worker

“It’s taking something no one wants and giving it to someone who loves it,” says Gage.

Austin Glover and Brenden MacKinnon chose to donate their time running obstacle courses and soccer games for the Grades 1-3 students at Holy Cross.

Holy Cross CES - Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board - Who Is NOBODY?

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A couple of other boys decided to write to local politicians urging them to start a green box program in the city.

Bev Hamm, a youth worker with the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, says she had been searching for a way to boost self-esteem and respect in this Grade 6-7 classroom when she came upon the Who is Nobody? program.

“Some of these kids didn’t believe in themselves,” she says. “The class was very challenging. They were used to hearing, ‘You’re in trouble.’

“I’m completely blown away by the changes in these kids.”

Arden Smelser, a social worker for the Catholic board, says the program has created ripple effects in the students’ homes where parents often became involved in projects.

“It’s just the beginning for these kids,” says Smelser. “Now they know they can achieve just about anything.”

This article was published in the The Brantford Expositor on June 27th 2009

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About the Author:

Who Is NOBODY? is a literacy-based bullying prevention program for Grades 1 – 12 that applies the curriculum to real-life experiences. Students build self-esteem by discovering their strengths and using them to help others.

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