- John Maland High School students show they care with Hope Bags
John Maland High School students show they care with Hope Bags
Last November, Keri Helgren, a teacher coordinator for the John Maland High School (JMHS) Leadership Team, The Claw Crew, was inspired to start a project was to help improve the flagging mental health of students during the seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic by connecting them with available resources and supports.
“I think we can all agree that at some point or another we have felt the effects of the virus on our lives, whether it be the lockdown, the ongoing restrictions or the lack of social interaction,” said Claw Crew member Hayley. “This made us realize that others may be feeling the same way. We wanted them to know that they weren’t alone, but that there are resources and help out they can tap into.”
“COVID has made our social lives almost impossible,” said group member Samantha. “This is a very lonely time, and being in isolation has been detrimental to our emotional wellbeing. We were hoping by creating a care package curated specially for John Maland students, to show them that people still do care and are here for them.”
Once Mrs. Helgren introduced the idea to her crew, they loved it and knew they wanted to do it. After many online meetings and brainstorming sessions, they got down to the final idea and began to work. The students worked to put the bags and resources together, while their crew leader ordered the items they needed.
“With all of our grand ideas, we knew our original $500 budget wasn’t going to cut it so we did something that’s so important in a time like this, we asked for help,” said Samantha. “The community support was amazing, we were able to get an overwhelming amount of food donations, and we even raised $1000 to go towards the bags.”
“We planned the basics of the bag for about a month, but ended up splitting into two separate teams,” said group member Autumn. “One group worked on getting donations and materials, while the other group worked on the costs and planning for which items should go in the bags. Once we got all of the materials, we set to work, using our free time to make 300 bags.”
In mid-February, the Claw Crew members handed out the Hope Bags to their schoolmates. They were all incredibly nervous to see how the first class would react to receiving the Hope Bags; however, their anxieties were unfounded.
“After that first class we knew all our fears were wrong, everyone loved the bags and could not stop talking about them,” said Hayley. “In fact, after we were all done Autumn, Sam and I were talking in the hall about it, our teachers came up to us and said that after we left all the kids were saying how cool the bags were. It was heartwarming that we could reach everyone and unite everyone through just a single Hope Bag.”
“We gave one to each student and explained the reasoning and significance behind our mission of the hope bags,” said Jules. “The response was amazing, and seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces made my day!”
“The students who got the bags were very happy to get them and loved playing with the fidgets and cards,” said group member Amanda. “I feel like people were happy to have a little surprise to change up the usual routine imposed on us by the pandemic. Our normal outlets have been taken away from us and our social life is limited, so it really boils down to the small things that keep us going.”
The Hope Bags were also a wonderful way for John Maland’s online students to feel reconnected and cared for by the school, said group member Carol.
“I believe that the benefits to a project like this is that students are more aware of their mental state,” said Mrs. Helgren. “I also feel like people were a little happier that day because they got a little treat in a time of uncertainty and discomfort.”