The group has the perfect name: Team Inspire. And each day that is what this group of Independence Elementary sixth-graders do. Whether it is showing kindness to fellow students, helping with new student orientations or collecting shoes and soccer balls for children in the Dominican Republic – this group of Independence sixth-graders sure does inspire those around them.
Team Inspire was started three years ago by Guidance Counselor Kelly Carstens. Each year the group has grown; today it stands 52 members strong. Those that want to join have to go through an application process that includes writing an essay, pledging to uphold behavioral and academic standards, and to be a good friend and community member.
Team Inspire members serve as ambassadors for the school and as role models for other students, but they also like to have an impact on the community at large.
“One thing that the group absolutely loves is community service and giving back,” said Carstens. “This year the theme of our community service projects is ‘The Big Give’ and we are tying it to character traits.” Team Inspire has taken on a service project (or two) each month that ties to the school’s monthly character trait.
In February, the character trait was kindness. So during Random Acts of Kindness week, Team Inspire held a “Pass it, Post it Day”. Group members spent their evenings, lunch periods and recesses writing hundreds of notes with positive messages like ‘You shine’ or ‘You can make a difference.’ They posted them all over the building and if you found one that you liked, you took it and could wear it or share it with someone at school or at home. “It looked like there was confetti everywhere,” said Carstens. “And the kindness and positivity generated from this project was truly infectious.”
Through service learning projects like these, students are also able to develop their leadership skills, build character and learn to work as a team. Team Inspire still has several projects planned for this school year, including work on “The Big Give: Heritage Day at Independence” slated for March 24. Four big assemblies will be held that day, all focusing on different character traits. One assembly will focus on “Giving Hope” and will feature a representative from A Child’s Hope International that helps fight childhood hunger in third world countries. Team Inspire will be selling water bottles to help raise money for the charity.
Although Team Inspire loves these monthly service projects, they also try to have an impact on their school community each and every day. At the end of the school’s announcements each day, a Team Inspire member asks a question: “Today, what will I give?”. There is a pause and then everyone responds with 'Give my Best' and 'Shine on!'.