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Athey Creek receives award


The Natural Helpers leadership program will use the grant

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Athey Creek eighth-grader Montgomery Lee Todd introduced guest speakers during a Nov. 7 presentation.Athey Creek Middle School received a 2012 Harold Schnitzer Spirit of Unity Award and a $500 Student Peace Education and Leadership Grant through The Wholistic Peace Institute and Harold and Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation.

Awards were given to 12 Oregon Schools during a ceremony at Athey Creek on Nov. 7 featuring student representatives from each school and organization. The middle and high schools were honored for initiating peace and service projects in their schools and their communities. Thirty-five student organizations have been honored to date.

Athey Creek’s Natural Helpers leadership program received the award for its work in creating an inclusive school culture and its new Nobel Peace Laureate Program.

“It’s amazing to be recognized for the work that we are doing,” said eighth-grade Natural Helper Kendra Odgen. “It’s a great opportunity and hosting the event was incredible.”

There’s amazing work going on at Athey Creek Middle School, added Toni Snapp, Athey Creek learning specialist and Natural Helpers coordinator.

“The recognition is a stepping stone for not only the work we have been doing but for our clear vision of what is to come,” she said.

The Natural Helpers leadership program was founded in 2004 and is open to eighth-graders. The function of the organization is to help orientate incoming sixth-graders, run assemblies, fundraise, and organize student socials and community outreach programs.

The group of about 80 students has redirected its focus this year, and has since created a new student welcome committee, student government committee, environmental committee and united sports committee.

“We are reaching out to students through our diverse set of committees to give students a voice and engage action and interest,” Snapp said.

“Our big motto is community through unity,” Odgen said. “Our goal is to unite everyone and make them feel welcome and celebrate their strengths regardless of their abilities.”

Students are working to create “community through unity” within their school through Project Unify — an education-based project sponsored by the Oregon Special Olympics that uses sports and education programs to foster respect and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

A group of seven Natural Helpers attended a youth leadership summit through Project Unify on Oct. 10. Through the collaboration with Project Unify, Athey Creek will host a Disability Awareness Week this spring, which will highlight the abilities of persons with intellectual disabilities.

The week will feature assemblies, games, presentations and the R-word campaign — a movement to raise awareness about the dehumanizing and hurtful effects of the word “retard.” The $500 grant will go toward Disability Awareness Week and the general Natural Helpers budget.

Athey Creek is also working to develop a Nobel Peace Laureate Program, which will work to bring laureates to the school. The school has also received curriculum that focuses on conflict resolution strategies, peer mediation, problem solving and more.

“We already have such a positive climate here at Athey Creek,” Snapp said. “We do such an amazing job of recognizing all students and we want to take it to another level. We can influence other schools within our district by our example and actions.”

“Our goal is to not only unite people in our school but to have peace in our community,” Odgen added.

Wholistic Peace Institute

The Wholistic Peace Institute works to bring Nobel Peace Laureates to Oregon schools and to help students became peace leaders in their schools and communities. In recent years, the organization has hosted Jody Williams and former South African President F.W. DeKler.

For more information, visit wholisticpeaceinstitute.com.