One Local middle school has students who are going above and beyond both in and out of the classroom.
The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce recently announced their Superstars in Education award winners--among them, the BARK Builders of Springer Middle School in Brandywine Hundred.
The organization was designed to help cultivate young leadership within the student body and help communicate between students and the faculty.
A group of eighth graders in the program sat down with WDEL to talk about the work they're doing in and out of the classroom to go that extra mile.
"The BARK Builder programs helps give the student body a voice and to help make a change in the community in our own schools," said Yusra Adlani.
Lena Shiley took it a step further and noted it helped her reach out to the entire school.
"I view this as a program that you can get involved in to help with involvement in the school and it helped me get to know more people around the school," said Shiley. "From joining the program I met some of the seventh and eighth graders, back then, and from peer tutoring i met some of the sixth graders.
Drew Warrington helped explain what it takes to become part of this organization.
"So what they are looking for in a BARK Builder is just that next-level student," he said. "To become a BARK Builder, you have to get two recommendations from teachers and write a short essay--I wouldn't even call it an essay, but a story about why you want to be a BARK Builder."
Joshua Lesser pointed out some of the things that these BARK Builders get to do to reach out in the community.
"There's a lot of community service involved. We do things for Martin Luther King Day--which we unfortunately couldn't do this year because of the weather, blankets for foster kids in that we put together lunches and have a clothing drive. There's many others including baskets during the fall and we put together Christmas gifts for families in the school that might not have enough money to buy gifts for their own families."
He added that it's not just about signing up and keeping good grades.
"It takes commitment," he added. "You have to go to one of the trainings over the summer. You have to go to a couple of the car-washes, which is another fundraising thing that we do. You need to make sure that you're the role model for students--you have to be that good role model."
Raina Wall-Williams takes that notion to heart and noted one of her favorite parts about being in the program is the impact she gets to have on the lives around her.
"It's amazing and beautiful. I've helped so many people here, especially talking to teachers and students, it's way comfortable for them to talk to me before I get a chance to talk to them," she said. "It's being able to see how I can affect the world and leave my impact here."
She added that from community service to the peer mentorship that the BARK Builders participate in, there's noticeable, positive change that happens--it's part of what keeps students coming back to the program for years.
"When we're in the classroom and doing peer tutoring, you can see it in their grades or the way they act in school," she added. "When you go into the classroom and you see that student, they are paying attention. They're not talking or talking, off with their friends or arguing with the teacher. They're getting their work done. Out of school, especially with the drives, you get to see the light on their face when they get back to school. They're not depressed--they're always smiling and they always keep it together. The drive is to see it in other people--I came here to help people and make it easier for me to help people. Seeing other kids, especially around my age, who can't get enough and knowing that I can help--it's just a wonderful thing."
Shiley said that the peer tutoring helps her feel good about the work that she does, but also gives her practical knowledge for what she'd like to do one day.
"I really love that program because I want to be teacher," she said. "It's gotten me experience helping kids. The sixth grader that I helped, it made me feel good when he actually started to understand some of the work that he was doing and it was crazy that I helped him do that. I really just wanted to help the kids here and the community outside of Springer."
Kaiah Cruz noted that the work he does one-on-one or in groups makes the extra hours more than worthwhile.
"Personally, it makes me feel really good that I'm able to be a voice for all these wonderful kids here and be able to help them get through middle school," he said. "It makes me feel wonderful and I love the fact that whenever I or a group of us helps someone, I see their face light up and it makes me glad that I've gotten to participate in this sort of thing."
He added that more schools should follow Springer's lead.
"Every school should have one," said Cruz. "It helps the teachers be able to hear the kids and be able to know that 'I can improve this a little bit' or 'I see that these kids aren't enjoying this so we can change this up and make it even better so we can improve our teaching and the amount of knowledge that these kids are getting, as well as how much fun they're having.'"
So how did these bright kids come to answer the call to be the student leaders in their classrooms, halls and communities?
Warrington remembers what drove him towards the program.
"When I was in the sixth grade I saw the BARK Builders and I heard about the trips that they do--I saw them around the school and helping out in the community," he said. "I told myself I wanted to do it so,come the end of sixth grade, I signed up, went through the application process and here I am."
He added that it's been one of the best decisions he ever made, to go for it.
"Nothing can beat that feeling of looking back and seeing something that you helped out with. Maybe it was someone who was in need, whether it was grades or something like the thanksgiving baskets--just knowing that you helped them," Warrington said. "It's fun. There's that feeling that you get to go to bed at night and are able to say 'I made a change today.' It just feels great."