This post was published on Courier-Journal on June 13, 2018 by Kate Talerico
Teaching public speaking is hard. Teaching public speaking to a group of eight middle school students on the autism spectrum is even harder.
That’s why Phoenix School of Discovery stood out to the Lead2Feed Student Leadership Program, which awarded $10,000 to a group of students who put together a fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
The Jefferson County Public School students organized the fundraising campaign through a nationwide program by Lead2Feed, which prepares students to apply leadership skills beyond the classroom. With the help of their school principal, Ken Moeller, the students in Lacey Rhoten’s classroom learned how to fundraise and present in front of an audience. By the time the school year ended, they had raised $3,000.
“All eight of them could stand in front of an audience and go,” Moeller said.
That wasn’t a sure thing from the beginning. “Can we prepare kids who have pretty profound communications problems to become fundraisers?” Moeller asked. The answer he found: a resounding yes.
After their classmate’s twin brother was diagnosed with leukemia, the students chose to pursue a fundraising project for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, structured around lesson plans provided by Lead2Feed. Teachers register with the program to gain access to Lead2Feed’s lesson plans, which can be taught over six to 10 class periods.
As each student practiced their three-minute fundraising presentations, their teacher recorded them, providing them with constant feedback, Moeller said. The program not only provided public speaking experience, but taught students hands-on how to plan out a fundraiser on a larger scale, he added.
The Lead2Feed $10,000 grant will go to a nonprofit of the students’ choice. Their decision? The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, of course.
The Phoenix School itself will receive a $2,000 grant for technology. As of yet, Moeller doesn’t know how the school will use the grant. Currently, Phoenix provides every student with a Chromebook.
Last year, another team at the Phoenix School won Lead2Feed’s grand prize when they organized a Bridge Building Day that encouraged their peers to break down cultural barriers, working with several Louisville charities in their efforts.
The award serves as a way to raise awareness for the students’ missions, said Lead2Feed program manager Linda Spahr. “When you share your story, you take others with you, and bring along more resources.”
Lead2Feed was created by the Foundation for Impact on Literacy and Learning and the Lift a Life Foundation. The program is fully funded by the Lift a Life Foundation, and led by David Novak, former chairman and CEO of Yum! Brands.