DREAMERS DO: Students Giving Back

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Students at one metro school say much has been given to them. So, a group at Callanan Middle School in Des Moines decided they wanted to make a difference for others by helping kids thousands of miles away.

This isn't your typical class. Noe Arreola says, "The let us play chess." It isn't just fun and games inside this Callanan Middle School room. Here, these seventh graders get extra help with class projects, mentoring and enrichment opportunities. Arreola says, "It's helped me a lot because of actually brought up a couple grades. I was falling behind."

The students are part of a program called "I Have a Dream." The Des Moines I Have A Dream Foundation adopted more than 40 at-risk students in 2006. Grace White says, "We got adopted in 1st grade from our elementary school, King. They promised us if we graduated from high school, they would give us a free ride to college and pay for our books."

Last year, the students added something to their class load. The group started the "Dreamers Do" service club. Kristi Dusenbery with Des Moines I Have A Dream Foundation says, "And, they run it. They decide what projects they want to take on and organize that."

The students wanted to give back. So, they decided to dream big by collecting something small. Arreola says, "We collected almost 2,000 pens."

The pens will go to the Cornerstone of Hope Orphanage with locations in Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Executive Director Eric Idehen says, "This pen works. The pens over there, they might be brand new, but it won't work. I'm hoping the children will use this to write in school and not keep it as a souvenir because it is special for them."

The supply of pens should last five years and help African students complete their school work. Idehen says, "I think this is wonderful. It's going to go a long way in helping the kids in Africa. Education is one of the ways you can invest in the life of a child."

An investment the community is making in the Des Moines students. Arreola says, "I really have been given a chance to be a good person because I'm in "I have a dream," so it would help me a lot, so I could probably help people too."

The Dreamers also do projects for the Raccoon Valley Animal Sanctuary. In addition to the service work, the 7th graders are already visiting colleges.