Freshman Aubrey Eaton, 15, was the project’s leader and worked with McLeod to oversee its implementation and completion. The change in projects was an adjustment, but Eaton’s glad one still occurred.
“I was excited to raise money for the Middle Georgia Honor Flight; I’d never heard about it until this year, but I thought it was the coolest thing,” Eaton said. “It means a lot to me that an Impact project still happened. Although we weren’t able to raise a lot of money for the honor flight like we had originally hoped, we were still able to show love to our community despite all of the challenges and chaos.”
Junior Abby Allensworth, 17, participated in helping and uplifting her community.
“Although we were unable to do our original project, the digital impact project was a great way to show the community love,” she said. “It's amazing that we did not just give up on a project this year. We were still able to impact our community without coming together in one place. We were able to uplift those workers and create masks that are important for keeping our community safe. I think the project was able to show the community how much students really care.”
Like many of his peers, freshman Campbell Smith, 15, anticipated the original dodgeball tournament, but he appreciates the opportunity to serve others with this digital project.
“Throughout the school year, I have been able to learn about servant leadership, including teamwork, innovation, and communication, and I feel that this adapted project is a culmination of these elements,” he said. “We are able to help those who most need it during this time without going against social distancing guidelines or other cautionary protections. It also gave us a purpose that allowed us to feel involved and helped to distract from the uncertainties of this time.”
Sewing was a new venture for many participants. Some students did not have access to sewing machines, so community members donated a few, including Jimmy’s Vacuum Sales and Service and Vann Middleton.
“I think that many of us faced challenges as we worked with sewing machines,” Smith said. “I was lucky to have been guided by my grandmother, but I know that some of my friends struggled.”
Freshman Caleb Kinneer, 15, admits he struggled with learning to use a sewing machine.
“I had never sewn before, and I didn’t have a sewing machine either,” he said. “This was definitely a challenge for me at first. With an in-person project, it would have been much easier to ask for help so that I could see how to use the machines and ask questions face to face. However, after calling some peers and watching some YouTube videos, I was thankfully able to sew the masks.”
The project and its intended recipients spoke to participant Loxley Slocumb.
“I want to work in the medical field when I finish college and wish I could be out there right now, helping save people’s lives,” she said. “This project made that possible in a different way. Being able to put together and sew masks for the healthcare workers on the front line was an amazing and fulfilling experience.”
And this project impacted her too.
“It benefits me with being able to do my part to be active in the community so that I can give back in these harsh times,” Slocumb said. “This project has taught me many things, but by far, it has helped me stay connected and feel good about being involved in the healthcare community as much as possible during this crisis.”
So far, these students have sewn approximately 268 masks. The Archbold Foundation received these items and distributed the masks to Archbold Medical Center healthcare workers.
Another part of the augmented project, the “Share” portion, was posting encouragement messages through social media platforms. Participants drew a heart on their hand, took a photo of it, and sent it along with a tagged note to teachers and essential workers.
“On social media, I was able to express my gratitude for local healthcare workers,” Smith said. “’Although I cannot comprehend what you face each day, thank you for your many sacrifices, mental and physical, and for the sacrifices of your family as you return home. Thank you.’”
McLeod salutes these youth’s effort and motivation.
“They were allowed to make a huge impact on their local community despite the strict social distancing mandates that had pretty much kept them in lockdown in their homes and away from their friends and normal high school end-of-year activities,” he said. “They could have just taken a defeatist attitude and missed out on this awesome opportunity to serve their community. Instead, they worked together virtually, having an impact right on the front lines. This is what the leader academy is all about: serving others even during the most difficult of times.”
Allensworth is proud of what this project accomplished.
“The opportunity to serve the community during these times really shows that together with everyone's help, we will be alright,” she said.