The Whole Child: Rylan McVannel, 8th grade at East Jordan Middle School, Shoe Club

During the Nov. 1, 2021, Area-Wide Professional Learning Day, Char-Em staff prepared a special video to share with regional educators demonstrating their impact on students and families. Each of the speakers represented one of the five tenets of the Whole Child philosophy: Safe, Healthy, Engaged, Challenged, and Supported. Parts of the speakers’ stories were compiled for the video.

This is the full story provided by Rylan McVannel, representing the Engaged tenet.

Hi! My name is Rylan McVannel, and I am an 8th grade student at East Jordan Middle School. I am also a proud member of the Shoe Club, an organization of 7th and 8th graders at my school. We work together to inspire others to be compassionate by putting ourselves in other people’s shoes. Our teacher, Mr. Hamilton, is always encouraging us to dream big, set goals, work hard, and give back. 

So, last school year, we did just that! 

Usually, the Shoe Club takes trips to universities, holds monthly cooking classes and plans activities for the school like dances. Because of COVID, we were not able to hold activities last year. But we did NOT want to take a year off from setting a big goal and tackling it! 

There are about 30 kids in the Shoe Club. Last year one of the senior mentors brought up the idea of fundraising to install solar panels to help power our school and reduce expenses. At first we were thinking of raising enough money to power one or two classrooms, but then we learned it didn’t take a lot more money to be able to buy enough to power even more classrooms.

We set our fundraising goal first at $30,000, and then bumped it to $70,000, which is definitely a lot of money. We went door-to-door to businesses and gave presentations in our community to raise the funds. We also wrote and received grant funding. We ended up raising almost $100,000! This was enough to purchase a 30-kilowatt array that provides 6 percent of the school’s energy, saving $4,300 every year for the next 25 years!

Last spring on Earth Day, the panels were installed on the roof of the middle/high school building. It was very cool to see and we all felt really proud to be part of it. I heard this was the largest student-led project in our school history. Soon, teachers and students will be using the data in class projects, so it will be useful for many years to come.

In the Shoe Club, we talk a lot about setting smart goals, working hard, and being engaged in our communities. Mr. Hamilton is a role model to us. He is very understanding, has strong values, and also pushes us to work hard. He always tells us that even if there is a bump in the road, to keep going. In order to even get into the Shoe Club, we have to read a book, called “Value Up,” write a paper about the book, and also make a list of ten future goals we have for ourselves. I had never put my goals down on paper before. 

Next year when I start high school, I plan to join some more clubs and check out some sports, too. The Shoe Club has given me confidence to pursue my interests! I also plan to carry with me the things I’ve learned in the club like working hard and being engaged in our school and community. We need to make sure we are always setting goals for ourselves. 

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