Students In Action
FHS Club Competes at National Competition In D.C.
Writer: Matt Keating
Photography Provided by FHS Students In Action
The Fishers High School Students In Action Club recently won the Central Indiana Jefferson Awards Competition and competed in Washington D.C. for the national competition June 27-29. The team took home Silver, finishing second in the nation.
Eduardo Torres, an English teacher at Fishers High School, who is also the school’s sponsor for the Students in Action program, says he couldn’t be prouder of the students he works with.
“It’s very rewarding,” Torres says. “It makes you feel good. You see what your students are capable of. The kids had positive goals, and they not only met them, they exceeded them. It’s very exciting.”
Last year, the FHS Students In Action group came in fourth place in the national competition, competing against other kids across the country.
“Students In Action is a community service club run by students in which they create projects based on their passions and the needs of the community,” Torres says. “Leadership, engagement and impact are the three pillars of Students in Action.”
The students have led 10 projects since they became a club in October 2016.
“On one of the projects, the kids teamed up with The Indy Dream Center (a partnership of churches, hospitals and civic organizations that cooperate together in a common vision and mission to see communities transformed from the inside out) to help the homeless,” Torres says. “They put together ‘Comfort Care Kits’ with food, toiletries and other items. They delivered them to the homeless in downtown Indianapolis. A lot of different businesses donated a lot of items. I think it was good that the kids see that side of life with the homeless and understand there are people who need their help.”
The club also collected 5,300 cans of food for the hungry in Hamilton County.
“The amount of planning and work they put into these projects is truly amazing,” Torres says. “A lot of their collection projects have really taken off, and people in the community have supported them.”
FHS Students In Action also donated nearly 6,000 books to local schools in need and veterans and made 465 art kits for patients at Riley Hospital.
“They also raised $8,000 and collected 100 items as relief to the Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico,” Torres says. “The group also has several projects that are ongoing, such as a soccer jersey collection, an opioid awareness club, and they also have ‘happiness message’ projects where they pass out positive message stickers to other kids to put on their laptops.”
Students In Action also collected soccer equipment for kids in Honduras and Ecuador.
“They push me quite a bit to challenge myself and become a better educator,” Torres says. “They inspire me to solve real problems.”
The Fishers Students In Action club meets during the entire school year. In the fall, the club meets each Thursday to work on projects in addition to board meetings every Monday.
“They meet at 7 a.m. before school and also meet with me at lunch to talk about all the projects,” Torres says. “Their level of dedication is overwhelming.”
In the winter, Students In Action start getting ready for the National Jefferson Awards competition, a program started by the late First Lady Jackie Kennedy, Co-Founder Samuel Beard and former U.S. Senator Robert Taft Jr. in 1972. The program’s intention is to recognize outstanding community service within large corporations, communities and schools. Each year, a national ceremony is conducted in Washington D.C. that recognizes these winners, and the award is often referred to as The Nobel prize of community service.
In the spring, members of Students In Action write about 25 essays answering questions related to leadership, engagement and impact. They also put together a competition video.
In addition to the essay portion, there are also 34 survey questions and then a presentation. The students talk about their particular club and explain their service projects.
In the summer, members of Students In Action work on different projects, meet to come up with future projects and then head to The National Jefferson Awards in Washington D.C.
Combatting Gun Violence
Torres says that FHS Students In Action met near the end of the school year to start a project that would address solutions for schools to deal with gun violence in the wake of the Noblesville West Middle School shooting.
“They put together a podcast to talk about solutions,” Torres says. “They talked about school security and who should be criminally liable after a tragedy. What the failures in the system are if kids don’t feel safe in schools. They are very passionate about they do and are sending their ideas to Senator Joe Donnelly.”
Torres adds that Hamilton Southeastern School (HSE) students are also encouraging elementary schools to start their own service projects through another service group they created.
“There is the HSE C.A.T.S. (Creating Actions Through Service), a community service program whose aim is to teach students the values of challenging themselves in order to help others,” Torres says.
HSE C.A.T.S focuses on creating change through challenge, while motivating young people to change the world one project at a time.
“Everyday, I’m amazed and excited by the creative ideas the kids come up with to make things better for other people,” Torres says. “It’s very inspiring.”