(Abilene, Texas) Campers in Hardin-Simmons University’s Threshold Program for gifted students collected art supplies for children in refugee families in Abilene this week.
The campers in sixth to tenth grade packed the art kits with the donated supplies on Friday and wrote personal messages to the recipients.
Amy Boone, a Threshold teacher, said about 80 art supplies packs will be delivered to preschool-aged children in Abilene who were resettled through the International Rescue Committee organization. Next week, Threshold campers will collect school supplies for older refugee children. Abilene is one of 17 cities in the country that resettles refugees through the IRC.
“These children are already starting off on a tough journey to acclimate to the United States. Any little thing we can do to help them be most prepared for when they begin school, that is a good goal for us,“ she said.
Threshold camper Ellice Whiteaker, who will be a sixth grader in Abilene, said she felt great about participating in the service project.
“It’s very special to me because I know I’m doing something good for the community,” she said. “When I’m doing something good, it just seems to make the world brighter. Knowing that the younger children will be able to have a way to open their imagination and a new way to learn means a lot to me.”
Camper Nicolas Vega, of Abilene, who will be a sixth grader in the fall, said he was happy to be part of a project that will allow other children to express their creativity and develop a more open mind.
Students wrote messages of encouragement for recipients. One student, for example, wrote in colorful markers, “Be positive, Have fun, Be kind, Laugh, Be creative, You are loved.”
Dr. Mary Christopher, associate dean of education at HSU, said she often uses the phrase, “to whom much is given, much is expected,” with Threshold students. Service project can help students further develop the desire to help others, a quality found in many gifted students.
“A lot of these kids, one of their gifts is empathy,” she said. “They care about things that maybe their age peers aren’t caring about yet.”
Boone said gifted education students are often passionate about issues of justice and service projects can help students take action toward concrete goals of helping others in challenging situations.
Threshold teacher Kim Cheek talked to her classroom about the many ways that students can help in the community.
“Today you have the opportunity to take another step in making a difference,” she said.
The two-week Threshold program held at HSU has more 380 gifted and advanced learners attending in July.
The program began service projects in 2015, when Threshold campers collected thousands of books to deliver to local community groups.