By Anna Hughes

Inside Ms. Ashley Kaumeyer’s class at Monroe School, 5th graders are learning about more than just reading and writing.

Through the KIDS (Kids Initiating a Difference in Society) Grant program, she’s teaching them about kindness, hard work, attention to detail, and the impact that just one person can have on their community.

KIDS Grants, managed by the District 181 Foundation, are $150 stipends that any D181 student can apply for to serve a need in their community. This idea started over 15 years ago and has gained popularity throughout the school communities in recent years.


“I was really excited knowing I was helping other people.”

– Marlowe Coleman, Monroe School student


“It’s a great learning tool,” D181 Foundation president Bridget DeMartino said. “We really hope it’s a full circle moment for them to be able to say, ‘Hey, I’ve identified a problem, and I’ve done something about it.’ And then they can truly see how they’ve made a difference. It’s really one of my favorite programs.”

Kaumeyer’s students read A Long Walk to Water, where they were inspired by the message of helping other people. To bring this lesson to life, she offered students the option of applying for a grant to support a cause of their choosing. Eight students applied, and all of their proposals were approved.

“When I found out the grants were accepted, I was really excited,” Evelyn Wrigley said. “I was really excited knowing I was helping other people,” added Marlowe Coleman.

Coleman’s grant provided educational materials to Helping Hand, which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Wrigley and her classmates Samantha Nguyen and Cameron Cady provided the Hinsdale Humane Society with essentials for the animals while they wait for their forever homes.

Kiera Thorpe purchased diapers and baby wipes for moms and babies in need.

Brendan Jacobs created Valentine’s Day care packages for residents at Magnolia Senior Living Center so that “the elderly people there won’t feel lonely.”

Tommy Fussaro and Connor Dawravoo donated necessities to Beds Plus in LaGrange to help homeless families through the winter.

All of the students were responsible for researching the needs of their selected organizations, properly budgeting their allotted $150, and delivering the supplies in person.

“It was tiring, like, the math for buying everything under a budget of $150. I messed up a few times with taxes,” Jacobs said.

Despite some roadblocks, unanswered phone calls, and a rude awakening on hidden costs, these eight students stepped out of their comfort zones and all completed their proposed project.

“I’m proud of all of them. I think they were really inspiring,” Kaumeyer, the differentiation specialist at Monroe School, said. “They really connected with Salva Dut and his story from A Long Walk to Water, and were so inspired by him and how he could give back, and really talking through how they wanted to do that, and problem solving, and being creative thinkers about how they could make a difference today.”

The students agreed that it all felt worth it in the end.

“It was really nice because I’ve always wanted to help people in order to make a difference. So knowing that I was able to do that was really inspiring,” Nguyen said.

This experience also encouraged them to continue to give back in the future because of how rewarding it was. And they won’t let their age stop them.

“At such a young age, like a lot of people feel that it’s harder to make a difference,” Thorpe said. “But there’s the program like the KIDS Grant, it … gives us more ideas to help people in the future.”

Any student in D181 can apply for a KIDS Grant. Applications can be found online at d181foundation.org/kids-grants. ■

Evelyn Wrigley and Samantha Nguyen work on their project together.
Photo by Ashley Kaumeyer

Tommy Fussaro and Connor Dawravoo donate their care packages to Beds Plus in LaGrange.
Photo by Lesley Dawravoo
Evelyn Wrigley and Samantha Nguyen visit the Hinsdale Humane Society. Photo by Michelle Shang

 

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