by Anne Gilliland-Cheek
Educator and graduate student
Miami University and Denver Zoo Project Dragonfly 

As a graduate student with Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, I knew I wanted to get involved with making a change in my community and beyond. When my advisor pointed me in the direction of the Roots & Shoots online training program last summer, it felt like just the right fit for me. I had heard of Roots & Shoots before and I remember thinking at that time that I wouldn’t have the first idea how to get involved with a service project. Participating in the course changed all of that for me!

The best part of doing the Roots & Shoots training for me was working with other educators and the Roots & Shoots staff to learn the ins and outs of the model. I walked away knowing how to show students the way to make digital maps and identify issues in their community so they could take action. It gave me the confidence to get involved with service learning in my community.

I was able to partner with a group at Hinkley High School in Aurora, CO called Helping Wings. The group has been around for several years but before this year, had solely focused their efforts on fundraising for charities and not on service. They were eager to find a way to tie local service in with their international charity fundraising. We found a perfect match for this project in Hope Shines, a nonprofit that works with orphaned children in Rwanda. 

The students with Helping Wings decided to focus their work on water conservation and waste removal. Locally, they organized waste clean ups of their school grounds and the canal which runs behind it, as well as working in the community gardens on the school grounds. The students even earned a Roots & Shoots grant to purchase anti-littering signage for along the canal. 

In addition to all they have done on school grounds, the students have also fundraised over $600 by selling chocolate suckers and candles they made. The money has been used to purchase water filter straws through a company called WATERisLIFE to give to each student who attends Hope Shine’s summer camps in Rwanda. The students are currently working on making informational posters on water safety to send to Rwanda so the students there can use them for community education efforts. The best part of the whole project for me has been working with the students and seeing how each one of them has taken the lead with these projects and connected to their community, both here in Colorado and in the wider world! 

The Roots & Shoots model has made each step of this process smooth and easy to navigate.  Our students are excited to continue to work with this project and fundraise even more money for grounds improvement and tabletop water filters for the orphan centers Hope Shines works with in Rwanda. The students have gained an enormous amount of confidence throughout this process and have driven the direction of the project. The recognition they have received for their work within the school district and when they were named project of the month for Roots & Shoots has driven them to work even harder to make a difference. I truly believe that each and every one of our club members is having an impact that will be felt well beyond this project! I would highly recommend the Roots & Shoots training to anyone interested in learning how to inspire your students and make a positive impact on your community and environment.


Click here to learn more about the 2nd annual Roots & Shoots Online Course.