Los Lunas Middle School students continue with community projects


Students at Los Lunas Middle School have been involved in several community service projects as part of an overall school effort to get children more involved in school, at home with their parents and in their community.

“We want to make school as real as possible, so they’re not in a bubble here in their own little environment,” said Terrie Chavez, a teacher and sponsor of the National Junior Honor Society. “It’s the outlook of the whole world that we try to teach them, so when they are out in society, they know how to (navigate).”

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Los Lunas Middle School student council members Orlando Santillanes, front left, Jarred Gray, right, Marisa Sanchez, back left, and José Perez helped organized a school wide scavenger hunt that had students learning how to research, find information on the Internet and work with parents and teachers in collaboration of a single goal.

The philosophy is that students who care do better in school, and they perform better on their tests because their awareness has been raised.

They pay more attention when they are given the Standard Based Assessment and MAPS tests, Chavez said.

Parents donated personal hygiene products for care packages that students put together for the homeless and delivered to the Good Shepherd’s Brothers Shelter. This project was also the kick off of a school-wide scavenger hunt sponsored by the student council.

“The scavenger hunt had a $10 entry fee (about 50 cents per student), and also the care package,” said Vincent Gurule, teacher and student council sponsor. “The care packages and the money will be donated to the Good Shepherd’s Brothers Shelter, about $180, plus probably about $400 worth of goods they can use.”

As part of one of 18 scavenger teams, students hunted for everything from a simple paperclip to a diploma from Eastern New Mexico University, to a Twister game and an American $2 bill. Each item found was worth a certain number of points.

It was designed to encourage students to talk with their family, and get their parents’ help looking things up on the Internet and doing research, Chavez said.

One of the most outrageous items on the list was 30,000 pounds of bananas.

“See, they were trying to trick us,” she said. “Who has 30,000 pounds of bananas? Well, the kids looked it up, and it’s a song. Stuff like that helps them use their minds.”

Teachers, students, school officials and parents all worked together on a common goal that helped expand student awareness and understanding of the world, as well as the ability to research to answer questions.

“We’re an AVID school here,” said Gurule. “Part of AVID is using different techniques in teaching — just good practices in teaching — and one of them is collaboration.

“We try to teach collaboration because we find that working together you can achieve so much more than working apart.”

The students said they enjoyed the hunt, and it made them think about things they normally wouldn’t think about.

“I found a lot of stuff, a red sled and an AC/DC T-shirt,” said seventh-grader Jaime Melendres. “I think it was fun and good to do, because we learned (about) road maps.”

One of the objects in the hunt was a piece of coal that classmate Angela Talley wouldn’t have found on her own.

“I learned it was easier to help my mom look for things and find everything that we need,” said Talley. “It was a lot of fun.”

Language Arts teacher Michelle Gammel’s team won with 8,410 points out of a possible 9,200.

The team receives a traveling trophy until it moves on to another competition and winning team.

“Whoever gets their name on it 12 times will keep the trophy for good,” Gurule said. “But this is the first time it was used, so there’s no names on it yet.”

“The scavenger hunt gave our school a kind of bond with each other, because of the collaborative effort,” said Orlando Santillanes, a student council member.

“The collaboration in this whole scavenger hunt was incredible. You should have seen the way some of the kids grouped together,” Gurule said. “It’s one of the biggest projects I think I’ve seen on campus so far.”

The community service projects fostered a sense of personal integrity within the students, and pride in their school.

“When they’re inducted into National Junior Honor Society, part of their requirement is to earn 50 hours of community service,” said Chavez.

With guidance, honor students also learned how to organize and coordinate a fundraiser, and raised $900 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

They had a dance and sold T-shirts, bracelets, water bottles with the Susan G. Komen logo, snow cones and stickers, the students said.

The whole school also participated in a food drive, donating more than 6,000 cans. They were able to make 56 Thanksgiving food baskets for people in the community.

There was also a stuffed animal drive for children of Youth Development, Inc.

Money for the Renaissance program was raised by students who ran a snack bar at the local arts and crafts fair. They also collected fees from 33 booth rentals.

Students donated socks for seniors at a retirement home, which the International Language Club delivered after performing Christmas carols.

Teachers participated in a giving tree project to adopt a student for Christmas to give a gift of clothes or a meal for Christmas. It was up to the teacher what they wanted to do for the students, said Chavez.

“Christmas is about giving to others that don’t have,” said Jarred Gray. “And I’m glad that we’re doing that for our community, and happy that we’re doing that from our school.”

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.