Lewis and Clark Middle School teacher Jamie Jarvis puts trust, time and money on the line to show community-minded eighth-graders that they can make a difference.
A year ago, the geography teacher and his wife, Shannon, who works at Billings Clinic, put together the Two Roads Project aimed at giving students a chance to actively make Billings a better place.
“I wanted to get kids involved in caring for their community,” he said. “It’s something I hope they carry over later in life.”
Lots of people talk about helping but somehow never get around to it.
“They say ‘What can we do? We’re just kids. It takes money to do something,’ “ Jarvis said.
So he and his wife decided to remove at least one barrier. They put up $300 and gave three kids each $100 to see what they could do. The students were encouraged to explore the needs of the community, pick a project and “grow” their money to meet the need.
The Jarvises starting talking about their idea to friends and family and soon collected an additional $500 for the project’s first year. Eight students at Lewis and Clark were given money — and the responsibility that goes with it.
This year, the Two Roads Project raised $1,800 from friends and extended family. Local Travel Alliance kicked in another $1,000. That was enough to expand the program to three other schools and fund 28 grants.
Project money was given to eight students at Lewis and Clark, Castle Rock and St. Francis middle schools and four volunteers at Lockwood. At Castle Rock, teacher Randy Chase recruited teams of two so that a total of 16 kids were involved at that school.
This year, some students decided to pool their money to work on joint projects.
At Lockwood Middle School, social studies teacher Tony Derrig, who helped set up the project there, asked Arielle Milburn, 14, and Olivia Bochy and Sarah Kiekover, both 13, if they would be part of Two Roads.
“Mr. Jarvis said he wanted Mr. Derrig to find people who were responsible and would follow through to the end,” Olivia said. “Mr. Derrig said we were the first kids that popped into his head.”
The three girls got together to talk and decided on a joint effort.
“There are a few places that get a lot of help and support, but the Women’s and Family Shelter doesn’t get so much,” Sarah replied when asked how they chose a project.
The girls went to the downtown Billings shelter for a tour and asked what they could do to help.
“They told us they really needed pillows,” Arielle said. “We’re going to use the money we raised to buy 281 pillows.”
“When someone comes into the shelter, they won’t get a grungy old pillow,” Sarah said. “They’ll get a brand new one.”
The pillows will be delivered this week, and the girls plan to be there to help unload.
Altogether the teenagers raised $1,308.46. Sarah came up with the idea of raffling an iPod 4G. They approached Radio Shack in the Heights and with their seed money bought the iPod at cost; the store even threw in some headphones.
For three weeks, the girls staffed a table at Lockwood Middle School to sell tickets. They appealed to firefighters, churches and Lockwood businesses to help. On the big day, a ticket purchased by a classmate was drawn and won the prize.
At St. Francis Upper School, where religion teacher Mary Landry is working with eight students, the youths pooled their money to help provide entertainment for children on the pediatric floor at St. Vincent Healthcare.
They collected donations of DVDs and Wii games from their peers and bought five Wii consoles, more games and DVDs, as well as shelving to store the discs. The students also contacted the St. Vincent Hospital Foundation, which agreed to match their $800.
Three Lewis and Clark students decided to purchase and collect Kindles, Leapsters, educational video games, hand-held games, movies and books for pediatric patients at Billings Clinic.
Stacy Lemelin, another Lewis and Clark eighth-grader, decided to work with Friendship House. She is raising money for iPads to replace failing laptops.
Classmate Allie Bofto had decided to raise money for the DUI Court where District Judge Mary Jane Knisley presides. Jenna Eaton is working with Wild Purls Yarn Shop to provide hats and mittens for kids in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
Jarvis hopes to have enough money next year to get 50 students involved citywide. He said the most rewarding part of Two Roads is watching the students think through the process and learn to believe in their ability to change things.
“I want them to feel the weight of this $100,” he said. “What I love about it is that it forces them to think first and struggle with it. The come out the other side and feel very excited about what they’ve done.”
Arielle learned the lesson well.
“No matter how big or small, what you do always helps,” she said.
Other students participating include, from St. Francis, Meg Fitzgerald, Mikaela Lorash, Harrison Fagg, Barclay Fagg, Megan Grosso, Joey Nichols, Jackson Boos and Aimee Eubank.
Lewis and Clark participants include Lily Dyre, Haley Piatte, Marin Kirkland, Ellen Taylor and Tyler McQueen.
Also among the crew at Castle Rock are Shaelyn Bachini, Cade Barthuly, Nicolena Boucher, Michael Chase, D.C. Chelgren, Morgan Dugi, Brianna Dutton, Nicole Guenthner, Ashley Hand, Bailey Hassler, Ashley Hassler, Bailey Rheaume, Parker Stott, Payton Stott, Emma Tolzien and Tessa Wilson.