OVID — Gertrude Shaffer is driven to make a difference in the world.

The South Seneca Middle School teacher wants her students to be involved every step of the way too.

Shaffer has been getting her students involved in local and global initiatives. From helping hungry families in the local area to providing children in Nigeria with an education, her integrative teaching combines literacy with history, distance learning and empathy.

“In an effort to develop our young adults’ responsibilities as global citizens, the Distance Learning program at South Seneca Middle School teaches students the foundations and principles of democracy,” Shaffer said. “The class provides empowerment opportunities as students select service learning projects in response to their reactions to the issues they research.”

Students have been quite proactive so far this year.

An ecumenical food pantry led by middle- and high-school students brought in 595 pounds of goods. Other projects ultimately bring a wide range of artists, activists, and experts into the classroom, and the students form lasting friendships and memories of affecting positive change in the world, Shaffer added.

Cardboard City, an October event that brings increased awareness to homelessness and generates funding for Habitat for Humanity, raised $3,770.25 this year, hiking the school’s grand total to $10,570 since beginning the initiative five years ago.

Kingsley Kabari, a Nigerian native who fled his country when he was 13, has been working with Shaffer’s class for two years, raising awareness and helping to raise funds so that native Ogoni children receive an education.

“The No. 1 learning goal in the middle school is learning,” eighth-grader Dominiq Kio said. “The guests teach us their ways of life.”

“People from Africa come to the United States hoping for a better life,” seventh-grader Madison Welch added. “They are constantly facing challenges that we could not even begin to imagine. Helping them develop a higher level of education could greatly enhance the world. If other countries came together and helped educate the children of Africa, the effect would be everlasting.”

So far, student efforts in Phase II of an Education Prevents Recruitment project have raised $954. This means 23 Ogoni children in Nigeria will receive school uniforms and shoes.

“I think Education Prevents Recruitment is a great idea, and it is a very big dream,” chimed in eighth-grader Jasmine Morrow. “Hopefully, one day that dream will come true.”

“Everyone deserves an education,” seventh-grader Maddy Houck stated.

Last year, $800 and 107 pounds of school supplies were sent to Nigerian children.

“I believe that helping eliminate poverty in third-world countries is great, and I hope to help more with it,” seventh-grader Julia Hubbard said.

“It is amazing to witness the real-life learning magical interactions between our students and people from around the world,” Shaffer said. “From my teaching point of view, how fun is that!”

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