Seventh-graders at Fulton Middle School are trying to make the world a better place.
Several groups of students are currently participating in "World Changers" projects, and representatives of those groups spoke to the Fulton Public Schools Board of Education Wednesday evening.
"They've done amazing," middle school teacher Melody Hapner said. "They've been working for six months on projects they're excited about and that have an impact on their community."
Students had to brainstorm project ideas, make a plan and present it for approval by FMS Principal Beth Houf. They've been hard at work for as long as six months in group of four or five students.
Meeting attendees heard about three of the projects.
Kelly Zhang talked about Walk4Water, a project of charity Healing Hands International. Walk4Water raises money to provide clean water to people in developing countries. According to the charity, about 842,000 people per year die of diseases contracted from dirty water.
"Kids in Africa have to walk miles to get to their water resources, and the water is often contaminated with animal feces," Zhang said. "That's just crazy."
She pointed out that spending hours walking an average of 4 miles per day to collect water cuts down on time children could be spending in school.
"Education is very important for kids," she said. "I'm passionate about it."
Her group has raised money for Walk4Water through cocoa sales and is currently planning a Walk4Water walking event March 21.
Jayla Kemp and Ivy Chapla are raising money for what they're calling Packs of Love. They hope to provide backpacks full of essentials to foster children in the Fulton Public Schools system. They held a school-wide raffle and supply drive to collect items such as toothpaste, hair brushes, deodorant and backpacks.
Kayla Morse's group is putting on a play for children at each of the three Fulton elementary schools. She described it as a fairy tale mash-up.
"We're hoping to give the kids a good laugh," Morse said. "The message is, put down your phone and read."
Her group wrote the script and designed costumes and sets for the 20-minute play.
Aside from benefiting the community, these projects have helped the students themselves, Hapner said. They've had to learn research and planning skills and make presentations to peers and school administrators. Even setbacks have been valuable in their own way.
"They've learned about failure and built some resilience in the process," she said.
As part of the project, each team created social media accounts. To learn more about Walk4Water, visit @fms_walkforwater on Instagram. Packs for Love is on Snapchat as @fosterkids56 and Instagram as @packs.of_love. Find the play at @world_changer_play on Instagram.
Also during the meeting, board members voted to approve staff and faculty pay changes for fiscal year 2020. The approved plan adds $200 to the base pay for the salary schedule and implements the statewide $9.45 minimum wage for eligible staff members.
Superintendent Jacque Cowherd noted this doesn't mean the district will automatically continue to increase hourly wages based on the recently passed Proposition B, which calls for a $12 minimum wage by 2023.
"If we keep increasing it by $.85 per year, we'll need to have an operating levy in two years," he said. "A significant one."
The board briefly addressed staffing and budget issues at Options Daycare and voted to form a committee to take a closer look at the problem.