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‘Got Involved’ outreach is school-wide at Jewel

The shirts signified thpeople participated community service project as part “Got Involved” program which started small last year exploded inschool-wide

The shirts signified that people participated in a community service project as part of the “Got Involved” program, which started small last year and exploded into a school-wide phenomenon.

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Sept. 2: Labor Day – No School

Sept. 3: No School – Pre K only

Board of Education meeting, 6 p.m., West High Library

Hall Open House for grades 1-5, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 4: Freeman Open House, 6 p.m.

Goodwin Open House, 6 p.m.

Jefferson Open House, 7 p.m.

AU Partnership Open House, 6 p.m.

Schneider Open House, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 5: Nicholson Open House, 6 p.m.

Jewel Open House 7 p.m.

West High Open House, 6:30 p.m.

Hall Open House for kindergarteners, 6 p.m.

Sept. 9: Smith Open House, 6 p.m.

Sept. 10: Hill Open House 5:30 p.m.

Greenman Open House 6 p.m.

Sept. 12: Hill Open House, 5:30 p.m. (2nd date)

Hope Wall Open House, 6:30 p.m.

Fearn Open House, K thru second grade, 5:50 p.m.; third-fifth grades, 7 p.m.

Sept. 16: Board of Education Meeting, 6 p.m., West High Library

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Updated: October 3, 2013 6:09AM

When groups of students and teachers started wearing black T-shirts at Jewel Middle School last year, people noticed. Soon, more people were wearing the same T-shirts and the fashion statement snowballed throughout the school.

The most important statement was on the T-shirts themselves, however: “Got Involved.”

The shirts signified that people participated in a community service project as part of the “Got Involved” program, which started small last year and exploded into a school-wide phenomenon.

By the end of the school year, about 80 percent of school teachers, students and staff had been involved in a project — from a breast cancer awareness fundraiser to a brush-clearing project led by a wrestling coach — making the program a testament to Jewel’s history of giving back to its North Aurora community.

“It’s positive,” said Jewel Principal Greg Scalia about the program. “It really builds students’ self-esteem, especially at this age. That service not only gives back to the community, but also makes everybody feel good — families, teachers, students.”

The community-first focus of Jewel began when it was built in the late 1990s. Scalia, who was an assistant principal at the time, said school leaders reached out to the community to ask them what they wanted in the school.

“We wanted the school to be an extension of the community and we still try to do that,” he said. “We open for church services, clubs, and sports teams — many different things. We continue to reach out to the community, to let them know that the school is part of the community, to give back what they’ve given us.”

For the first several years at Jewel, students used to do community outreach projects during what was called an “advisory” period. In more recent years, the student council conducted many service projects.

At the beginning of last school year, however, student services specialist Deb Ahlden kicked it up a notch with the “Got Involved” program idea. She introduced the optional activity at an all-staff meeting and it took off from there, thanks to several teachers who took to it immediately, as well as students who helped organized lunch tables and classrooms to tackle community projects.

“I was very pleased with the amount of effort by students and teachers,” Ahlden said. “It was over the top and they accomplished so much. It made Jewel look good.”

The programs included:

An American Cancer Society fundraiser that raised hundreds of dollars through the sale of raffle tickets and pink silicone bands that said “Jewel Fights Cancer.” The raffle prize — a $100 gift card — was given by a parent who was a breast cancer survivor.

Fleece blankets made for nursing home residents by a lunch table of students.

Hats knitted and crocheted for Mutual Ground residents by cafeteria workers.

Collections for military personnel overseas.

A Marine Toys for Tots drive led by a teacher who served in the Marines.

Collection for the Soles 4 Souls program, which sends shoes to third-world countries.

Class trips to Feed My Starving Children in Aurora to pack food shipments.

Seventh- and eighth-graders reading to elementary school children.

Eighth-graders babysitting during a parent open house night.

The first project last year was simple — a letter/postcard writing campaign by teachers and staff for the uncle of a staff member who had incurable cancer. The letters poured in for the man, who sent thank-yous in return.

This year, teachers didn’t need a kickoff project — they came prepared.

“Teachers who completed projects the first year are already starting projects this year,” Ahlden said. “Some didn’t do projects but now realize how simple it was and say ‘I can do that.’”

The result? Students are enjoying helping others and are more aware of their surroundings, Ahlden said.

“If we can build young people to care about others in the community,” Ahlden said, “we’d be in a much better place.”

Sounds like Jewel is well on its way to accomplishing that.

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