A group of local elementary school students recently demonstrated their vision and interest goes far beyond their immediate community.
Students with the academically gifted classes of Copeland and Dobson Elementary schools presented an $820 check to Sunrise Rotary members recently, with the money earmarked for the Rotarians’ efforts to eradicate polio. Rotary, along with other partners, has reduced polio cases by 99.9 percent worldwide since their first project to vaccinate children in the Philippines in 1979.
The students became interested in the cause after reading the book “Blue” by North Carolina author Joyce Moyer Hostetter. The book focuses on the polio epidemic of 1944 and the emergency hospital in Hickory, North Carolina, that was created as a response to the quickly spreading disease.
Hostetter visited the Surry County School System in November and the students listened to her story firsthand. The author displayed photos of the hospital and showed how real events influenced the fictional story.
The students took action after reading the book and meeting the author.
“By studying this book, I learned that polio can be very dangerous and the consequences can be devastating,” said student Jacxon Gutierrez, “so I wanted to help.” The students researched polio and the Rotary Club organization. They developed a 30 x 30 by 30 Campaign and went to work. Thirty students in 30 days would raise $30 each. Together, they created a campaign video to share with other students and staff explaining their project and the goal of collecting money to donate to the Rotary.
Emily Wilmoth, academically and intellectually gifted teacher for Copeland and Dobson, led the students through various activities to enhance the students’ real world connection. They made 30 x 30 by 30 t-shirts, attended a program led by Rotary Club members, presented the project at the Elementary AIG Expo during the county schools district science fair, and wrote a script about their campaign. The students performed their script, which will air on Surry TV as a 30-minute video.
On the day of the check presentation, the students listened as Jane Smith, former Surry County Schools’ teacher, shared her experiences of having polio as a child. She talked about her diagnosis and the surgeries she had to endure. She told the students about how her mother kept her focused as a student even when she was out of school. She told the audience that her mother had been her hero. Smith thanked to students for their willingness to give money to Rotary in support of polio eradication.
Rotarian Keith Wilmoth spoke to the students about the mission and goals of the Rotary. Then the students presented the check to Chip Pulliam, president; Jeff Boyles, past president; Catrina Alexander, foundation chair; and Keith Wilmoth, member.
“This is a great day. I have enjoyed the presentations today, and I am excited to accept this check. We will certainly use this check to continue the work of eradicating polio,” Pulliam said,
“Through this project, I learned that I shouldn’t take life for granted because the people who have polio have their lives (and their family members’ lives) changed forever,” said Tripp McMillen, student at Dobson Elementary.