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Mitchell School students took ownership of holding a walkathon to raise money for Mill City students affected by the fire

PHOTO SUBMITTED BY JACKI MILLER - Mitchell School students trot around the track during a walk-a-thon to raise money for wildfire victims in Mill City.

A group of students at Mitchell School recently demonstrated the very essence of kindness.

What began as an exercise to reach out and show kindness, became something that brought this little school together to help another student body heavily impacted by tragedy.

Jacki Miller is a school-based counselor for Mitchell School. She works for Community Counseling Solutions, a nonprofit agency, and she works out of Asher Clinic, a school-based health center. She also works with adult clients and works with students in classrooms three days per week.

"I go into the classrooms also, and I do skill-building, teach them about social-emotional skills, drug awareness, bullying, suicide awareness—everything. It just depends on what is needed or what the focus of that week or month might be," explained Miller of her curriculum.

Kindness is the value that they were recently focusing on, and Miller asked students what kind of project they could possibly do to demonstrate kindness. Eighth grader Cameron Davis came up with the idea of a walkathon to raise money, and the rest of the students liked the idea. They wanted to choose one of the communities that had endured tremendous loss due to the fires this fall.

"The kids just took ownership of it," she said of the fundraising project.

The students, which included all grades, chose Mill City students because the Mitchell School mascot is "Loggers," which they thought matched up with Mill City. They took pledges, and students chose to do laps for their fundraising efforts.

"When talking to staff, it was decided they would give the kids a physical education (PE) period once per day all of last week, Monday through Thursday – so they had approximately one hour every day Monday through Thursday to do their laps," added Miller. "Even the kids who received lump sums rather than a certain amount per lap tried to get as many laps as possible. Their commitment was beautiful."

As of Wednesday morning, Oct. 21, the kids had raised $3,835 with donations still coming in. The younger elementary students (K-2) are holding a school supply drive, which was going to end on the 31st, but has been extended to the end of November.

"We plan to place drop boxes in other towns as well as Mitchell," said Miller. "We will have a drop box at Ray's, and other locations around Prineville."

The third through fifth grade classes are considering writing letters to become pen-pals with some of the Mill City students. The money will be allocated to students in Mill City for those who were affected by the fire and lost so much.

"The money will be split between a fund that the Mill City schools have for both grade school and high school, targeting needs of students," noted Superintendent of Mitchell Schools Vince Swagerty. "They will use the funds to replace items lost in the fire that were special to each kid. I would never have believed that we could raise this much money!"

Some of the lessons learned from the students was especially inspirational. Fourth grade student Alex Townsend indicated that raising money for kids in need made him proud to be doing the fundraiser. The students were also asked what they learned and what they would say if they could give a message to the students in Mill City.

"I'm sorry for the loss of your house and your things," said Townsend to the Mill City students. "I learned that giving a little time of each day to help others is a good thing."

Eighth grader Cameron Davis is proud that he came up with the idea of a walkathon to raise money.

"When I was a kid, we had a bunch of walkathons, and it was my favorite thing to do," added Davis.

"I'm sorry if you lost your home or any family members. I'm happy we were able to help, I only wish it could have been more," he said to address Mill City students.

Senior Yesenia Vargas explained that it made her proud to know that she was helping people who lost everything in a fire.

"It's already been a tough year with COVID and everything, and now those poor people lost their houses and valuables and have to start over again," said Vargas. She went on to say, "I learned that helping people in times of need makes you feel good about yourself as a person. Knowing that you can make a difference in someone's life is rewarding."

"I am so proud of my students and my heart is absolutely full," concluded Miller. "They are special kids to do this kindness for people they have never met. What a gift to all of us!"

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