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JS Middle School ‘comes alive’, brings out the best in everyone

PHOTO PROVIDED Brayden Seasholtz, shows the jugs of coins he collected for his Passion Project, “Coin War.”

From Staff Reports

JERSEY SHORE — As the 2019-20 school year kicks off, the Jersey Shore Area Middle School has continued to promote the motto, JSAMS Come Alive! What started as a theme for the 2018-19 school year has gained so much momentum that the building has adopted it again.

The notion behind the phrase is that regardless of their connection to the middle school community, all people will hopefully find what makes them “Come Alive” and pursue that very thing. Connecting people’s passions to their day-to-day life is something the school community should do well, said principal Keith Veldhuis.

Whether it be a student, teacher, or support staff, everyone should have the opportunity to identify and cultivate what makes them come alive, he said. As a building, the middle school is encouraging everyone to strive to be the best version of themselves and help others be their best too. We believe that we are better together and we need each other to bring out our best, Veldhuis said.

One way the school is doing that is through a Come Alive period.

The school is promoting social and emotional health within ourselves and those around us, learning about how to be positive digital citizens and contributing members to our community, Veldhuis said.

Passion Projects are a way the school is helping students, and staff, find their connection to their world and how to make it an even better place. These optional projects are non-graded personal efforts to better our community, both local and at times global, Veldhuis said.

One example that has taken place already this school year is from 7th grade student, Brayden Seasholtz.

Brayden wasted no time connecting his passion to the school community as he coupled with the national theme of September to promote Suicide Prevention. After connecting with administration, Brayden brought his Passion Project to the school through the use of a ‘Coin War.’ Brayden promoted the event through a video commercial, planned announcements and motivating awards for the top two homerooms. He also worked out the plans for tallying the money collected and how to safely secure and deposit the funds. The one thing he didn’t plan for was who was going to lift the full jugs of coins!

Beyond raising funds, which went far better than expected, Brayden wished to help make conversations on such a challenging topic more common. One activity used was having middle school students and staff respond to the prompt, “Tomorrow needs you because…” The responses shared created a word cloud with the more frequently used words appearing larger in the graphic. These word clouds are now displayed around the building reminding students of their value and worth in our community!

Students, like Brayden, are also reminded of their value beyond our immediate community, Veldhuis said. Passion Projects, such as this one, are able to impact an even broader audience, he said.

“Brayden provided an opportunity for our entire community to connect to something bigger than our building and town. The compelling cause and competitive edge of the middle school population combined for a very productive fundraiser,” Veldhuis said.

Overall, Brayden’s passion project raised a total of $2,585. Of that, $1,815 was donated through coins. These funds are now being sent to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention on behalf of Brayden’s Out of the Darkness Team.

What began with a 7th grade student setting a goal to raise $500 through a coin war, ended up with an entire middle school being united within the first couple of weeks of a new year.

“This one student’s passion provided an opportunity for more than 650 people to contribute to and connect with an agency that helps promote awareness and support for people who are struggling. This project demonstrated how one person can ‘Come Alive’ by making the world around them better and exemplifies the idea that ‘You Matter!'” Veldhuis said.

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