Grant Empowers Moorhead High School Students with Disabilities to Lead Community Service Projects

Moorhead Public Schools 


Moorhead High School senior Addie Loerzel is a strong advocate for students with disabilities. Over the years, she has encouraged her fellow classmates with disabilities to participate in community service. During the 2023-24 school year, Addie had the opportunity to expand these efforts with a $500 Heartwarming Project action grant from The Hershey Company, administered by Education+.
Addie, who is diagnosed with spina bifida, applied for the grant with the idea of a community service project fully led by the MHS Functional Living Skills class, taught by Hanna Fischer. The students would select non-profits in the area to support and then be in charge of every step of the process: development, budgeting, shopping and distribution.
“I applied for this grant because I know that students with disabilities are leaders,” Addie said, “and opportunities to show our leadership are very important.”
“It’s really empowering for students with disabilities to be on the giving side of community service, rather than the receiving end,” stated Fischer, “and Addie took the initiative to make that happen.”
In April, Education+ informed Addie that not only did the Functional Living Skills class receive the grant, but they were one of five grantees nationwide to have their grant doubled to $1,000. The class got to work on April 10, discussing which organizations they’d support and how they would do so.
“As people with disabilities, my classmates and I don’t have the kind of work experience that other kids our age might have,” explained Addie. “So we wanted to create a project where our class could manage money and pick up skills to help everyone get better jobs in the future.”
Ultimately, the class chose Down Home and the Spuds Closet as their recipients. Down Home, a Fargo-based non-profit, assists families and individuals emerging from homelessness by providing furnishings for their new homes.
To support Down Home, Mrs. Fischer’s students researched the kind of items Down Home would provide to their clients and purchased items such as flatware and blankets to donate. Instead of making a traditional donation, Addie and her classmates devised a surprise. They invited Down Home’s executive director, Jenessa Fillipi, to speak to the class about the organization, then, after she spoke, sprung the donation on her.
“Everybody did a great job and Down Home was so surprised,” recalled Addie. “Some of my classmates aren’t good at keeping secrets but nobody spoiled the surprise!”
The Spuds Closet, located inside MHS, is an area stocked with food, hygiene items and other necessities for students in need. In touring the Closet, the class used their perspective as students to identify a need.
“With the Closet, we know that what’s in there is what people in that situation need but we also thought about if the items available were things teenagers would want,” explained Addie. “So we got snacks and drinks and clothes that teens would absolutely die for.”
“It really put it in perspective for the students—and the staff, too—that just because a student’s family is in need doesn’t mean that they don’t still want the normal teenage things,” added Fischer.
With that in mind, the class purchased popular snack items like mini muffins, drinks like Celsius and upgraded the clothing in the closet with a teenage eye for fashion. The students visited the Spud Closet on May 3 to deliver their donation.
Mrs. Fischer’s class got a surprise of their own on April 24, finding out they were awarded an additional $250 for their project. They’ve decided to use the extra funds to support Fargo’s Box of Balloons, which gives birthday party supplies to children in need.
The impact of the MHS Functional Living Skills class’ donations around the region serves as a shining example of exactly what Addie set out to prove by applying for the grant: students with disabilities are leaders who enjoy the opportunity to serve others.

Comments are closed.

  • Facebook