A fifth-grade class at Mountain View Elementary School formed a club called HOPE with a mission to help everyone.

Julie Vangroll, the teacher who inspired the club, learned early in the spring she was chosen for a UNICEF trip to Tanzania this summer. She won the trip based on a service project her students conducted that raised $521 for water well installation projects in Africa.

Thrilled to be part of a global effort and newly aware of the issues of global poverty, her students formed a club called Helping Other People Everywhere.

As the school year came to an end, Vangroll and her teacher colleagues began boxing up their classroom supplies since most were scheduled to change classrooms due to renovation and addition projects on the campus.

“Instead of boxing up all the supplies, we decided to give it away,” the teacher said of the excess items she uncovered. “They did all the work,” she said of her students.

The fifth-graders collected unused school supplies from throughout the school and turned the items over to the Killeen Independent School District Homeless Awareness Response Program.

Picking up the goods, HARP leaders told students that Killeen ISD identified 1,500 students this school year who meet the legal definition of homeless.

“She said the kids will be very happy,” said Emma Waterman, one of the fifth-graders describing the service project.

Vangroll plans to take some of the overflow school supplies on her trip to Tanzania and will use a $1,000 UNICEF grant to supplement her donations.

Students also started pen pal relationships with students in Zambia where Vangroll’s daughter Holly spent a 27-month volunteer stint with the Peace Corps.

The fifth-graders’ newfound global interest took an academic turn, too.

On May 16, the students presented research to other classes about global issues specific to the developing world.

Emelia Atkisson and Mikayla Mackall presented a project about world hunger including troubling statistics of children living without proper nourishment.

“The world is huge,” Atkisson said. “It’s sad we get meals daily and they get unhealthy water.” Her research showed that many who struggle to eat do not get proper nutrition, making them susceptible to disease.

“When we first decided on our topic we read about the daily lives of kids,” Mikayla explained. In some families, the father might eat because he has to work, while the children go hungry.

“I think they are learning,” she said of the students who heard the presentation about hunger. “They are learning there are many who are not as privileged as we are.”

Fifth-graders Lily Coryell and Morgan Bell presented a similar project about children living in poverty.

“It’s good to tell people,” Lily said. “Maybe we will do something about it. It’s fun to learn knowing we can help change everything.”

“I liked presenting it,” Morgan said. “I think it will change our lives. Maybe we’ll start a company like Hoops for Hearts,” she said, referencing a charity that benefits the American Heart Association.

Vangroll said she was proud of her students and excited to see the future of HOPE.

“I’ve received thank-you notes from parents about instilling caring in their students,” she said. “Teachers want to be a part of it, too. I think there are opportunities for growing it.”

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