Youths’ leadership efforts signal sign of times
The entrances to McLouth are a little more inviting these days.
Residents in the Jefferson County town have many of their youth to thank for that.
McLouth Elementary School students, under the guidance of MES counselor Vickie Feuerborn, designed welcome signs that recently were installed along Kansas Highway 16 at the east and west entrances into McLouth. And, another sign was built on the north entrance to the city on Kansas Highway 92.
Now seventh-graders at McLouth Middle School, students were fifth-graders at McLouth Elementary when they first started the project. Students in that class led the MES students in making the project a reality.
The sign venture came about because Feurerborn wanted to work with the MES student council on leadership skills.
Through a joint effort among Feuerborn, Superintendent Jean Rush and fifth-grade teacher Jenna Terry, the school secured a Learn and Serve America grant for $10,000. The grant is through the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Feuerborn said that when the youths first did project work through the grant, they selected a motto. It is from an anonymous writer:
"You are on the pathway to a successful life when you do more for the community than the community does for you."
MES students put those words to work, but they didn't just focus on their own community.
They also completed two other projects.
One activity involved adopting three Jefferson County families during the Christmas season. Elementary school students gathered gift donations for the families. And, 50 blankets were donated to the students' cause. The blankets were then donated to Jefferson County for the needy.
A second activity surrounded taking up donations for Children's Mercy Hospital -- $516.71 to be exact.
Elementary school students chose what the money would go toward and then, fifth-graders at the time two years ago, selected what items would be purchased and given to Children's Mercy.
And, finally, there was the community project that brought new welcome signs to McLouth.
But it wasn't an easy process.
Students met with school officials and committees to determine what would work best for the community.
Two years ago, the fifth-grade student council members even attended city council meetings to update them on their progress and see whether their designs met the city's specifications.
"I am very proud of how the children handled themselves, at city council and at our committee meetings," Feuerborn said. "They did a very good job."
Each sign is slightly different and is made by different companies. Miller Sign Shop in De Soto made the two signs on K-16, while McLouth's own Troy Brisola made the K-92 sign. Bricklayers also built supports on both sides of each sign.
"We had enough money to do the aluminum posts, but the kids wanted brick," Feuerborn said.
And now, as the McLouth youths continue through school, they'll be reminded of their finished product every time they enter or leave their town.
"It was just a really good experience," Feuerborn said.