Middle schoolers helping locally and globally


The Great Shelburne Pencil Drive

In which we discover a direct link between Shelburne, Vermont and …Ghana?

middle schoolers helping globally and locallyLast week I had a chance to visit Shelburne Community School to see some underwater robotics. It’s one of several stories I walked away with that day that touched my heart and I feel compelled to share.

As we walked around, talking to students about their robots, learning about all the different opportunities students have throughout the year, we were invited into a side room and discovered an entirely different kind of building going on.

A pile of pencils

“Want to see something cool?” asked behavioral interventionist Sue Schaefer.

That’s always a great conversation starter, especially in middle school.

Walking into a side room, we noticed several large boxes containing mounds and mounds of pencils.

Okay, that’s not totally unusual for a school but as the story began to unfold I found myself listening intently. Sue mentioned that the pencils were collected by students to give to schools in Ghana. Wait What? What the connect between Shelburne, Vermont and Ghana?

I’ll let Schaefer tell you herself.


The grandfather of a student here, he has a school in Switzerland that he’s the headmaster of and every year they take a bunch of kids to Ghana and they literally build huts out of mud that they bake, and it’s for families who have been devastated by AIDS — so a lot of times there’s just a caregiver taking care of the kids.

On one of the trips they noticed none of the kids had pencils.

So from then on they brought their own pencils, and they gave them to the kids, and the kids literally, year by year would keep those pencils, and they’d be down to tiny little nubs, because they don’t have any way to get them and they don’t have any money.

So this year I said, “You guys, why don’t you do a pencil drive? Right?”

And they really do want pencils. Like, you can’t see but underneath — it started out with broken pencils and — they just said “We want any pencils, we don’t care what shape it’s in.” They organized the whole thing themselves, the kids did that all themselves, and not only that but they’re raising money at the craft fair for the postage to send them all to Africa. And then when they get there they’ll store them and distribute them.

Those folks are going to have pencils for a long, long time.

–Sue Schaefer, Shelburne Community School behavioral interventionist

But Shelburne students aren’t just working on global giving

middle schoolers giving globally and locallyAlong those same lines,  I walked through the office and stubbled upon a pile of donated food.

I just had to smile.

I was happy to see middle school students supporting causes bigger than themselves. I was inspired to see middle schools supporting humanitarian efforts. I was touched in their genuine care and concern for others and for the world. I was moved by their call to action.

As I was driving home that evening, I began to reflect on how my day went.

It started with robots (which I promise to blog about soon) and ended with middle school students thinking locally and globally about ways to help others. Amazing! So a huge shout out to Shelburne Community school!


Scott Thompson

Educator, Student advocate, husband, father, adventurer, outdoor enthusiast, cook, traveler, and former North American Nerf Golf Champion.

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