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Agents of change: Never too young to make a difference
Homelessness, child abuse, insecurities among their peers are some big and daunting issues. They're only 12, 13 and 14-year-olds, but some Brown Barge Middle School students figured they could do "something" to make a difference. They would be the agents of change - the Angels In Our Midst.
"She was talking about starting a club because her uncle used to be homeless and she wanted to help homeless people," said student A'kevian Anderson.
It was that simple conversation that 8th grader A'kevian Anderson had with a friend over summer break that launched the Be the Change Club at Brown Barge Middle School. When school started in August, they found like-minded fellow students who wanted to make a difference, too.
They were students like Margo Mason, "We believe that anyone can make a change. Our kind of motto is, 'We rise by lifting others.'"
With homelessness as their first mission, things took on a whole new meaning when they discovered that there were children at an elementary school who were actually homeless. Christmas was right around the corner.
For Jillian Presley, it didn't matter that they only had days to do something.
"It was just heartbreaking to know that there were kids out there, young as my brother who is six and ten years old and younger than them that are homeless. We wound up collecting over 1,500 items and two thousand for them," Jillian said.
Talking among their peers, they realized that there were others ways they could impact lives. Be the Change took a bold step and put their own vulnerabilities on the line to encourage their classmates to do the same, to Loose Their Masks. This was no small order, but Margo and the others were all in.
"Loose Your Mask is basically about getting rid of those insecurities cause those just really will weigh you down. So the idea is to just kind of get rid of those and to be proud of who you are, the way that you are; not having to change anything for anybody else," Margo said.
Their friends found the courage to put in writing those insecurities they want to shed. From the looks of the bulletin board, this is a freeing project. Jillian believes it's because the club members were willing to lead the way.
"In the Bible, it talks about how we should always be ready to share our story so that's what I want to do is share my story and help other people," Jillian said.
The movement and the message have made their way into other parts of the community as well. The group made a visit to a residential group home to share with the foster children who live there.
Margo said, "Oh, my God, yes. It was so much different than I expected. There's so much power in just reaching out as a friend."
Their sponsor, Leah Smith, just supports and watches her students with pride.
"They know that there are people out there that just need a smile and need a shoulder sometimes and they're ready, they're ready to be there. Overwhelming joy is what I feel. I have pride and hope for the future and it is awesome."
Margo sees the club as a first step for what is yet to come.
"It's just a few years before we're in college and in jobs and suddenly we're running the show. And you know, how are we going to make a difference and it doesn't have to be anything big," Margo said.
A'kevian agrees, "Be the change, we want to change this community for the better."
Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.