An ocean away: Mt. Vernon High School students raise funds for primary schools in Nigeria

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Students from Mt. Vernon High School’s AfriCAN Club work to benefit schools in Nigeria. (Submitted photo)

The AfriCAN Club began as a way to connect students to classroom content. It has since grown into an opportunity for Mt. Vernon High School students to help peers in Nigeria while learning life lessons along the way.

MVHS social studies teacher Katie Weaver-Miller launched the club when she realized students were disconnected from what they learned in class.

“I created this club because I wanted to add a service element into the classroom. As a geography teacher, I would teach about Africa but found many students did not feel connected with the content,” Weaver-Miller said. “I had a professor in college that worked directly with the people in Nigeria and thought it was a great opportunity for my students to put faces to the information in the textbook. I wanted our students to know that you don’t have to wait until you’re an adult to be a great change-maker.”

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Approximately 150 MVHS students are members of the club. (Submitted photo)

AfriCAN Club raises funds for primary schools in River State, Nigeria. Through local students’ service, they learn to plan and execute ideas, work within a team and communicate in a professional manner. Weaver-Miller said the skills will then become valuable assets when pursuing higher education and entering the workforce.

“Our 14- and 15-year-old freshmen in Fortville can make a huge impact in the lives of children an ocean away,” she said. “And so AfriCAN was born, and each student involved knows they can make a difference. We want our students to walk away understanding that helping others can come in many forms. Hopefully, when they leave Mt. Vernon, they will have a greater heart for service, and that is one of the best types of lessons we can share.”

Co-facilitator Nikki Scruggs, an MVHS resource department instructional assistant, is in her fifth year with the AfriCAN Club. She and Weaver-Miller met while co-teaching a geography class at MVHS.  

“I have always been a service-minded person, and Katie’s passion for the project spoke to my heart. I became involved with AfriCAN because I feel that it is our duty as humans to assist our fellow man when we are able,” Scruggs said. “I hope to foster that same sense of service in their hearts. I believe that if they can start to make a difference in the lives of others at a young age, that (it) will carry on through adulthood.”

AfriCAN Club began nine years ago and has since grown to 150 students. The application process is simple, but students must compose a résumé and cover letter to become an executive officer.

MVHS junior Claire Virt joined the club because she said she enjoys working with clubs that help other people.

“I would tell other students it is important to get involved because this helps you stay informed and aware of the world around you,” she said. “Donations are always welcomed and appreciated, but I believe the best donation you can give is the gift of your time, so I encourage others to join the club.”

Virt is involved in other clubs like Best Buddies, Green Team, Voice and various student boards, but she said AfriCAN Club is unique.

“AfriCAN club is different because it focuses on making a positive global impact, and I feel like this promotes diversity and acceptance of other cultures,” she said.

MVHS Principal Greg Roach said AfriCAN Club and other MVHS service clubs show the true hearts of MVHS students.

“One of our areas of focus at MVHS is service learning,” Roach said. “Our clubs that organize activities for the benefit of others falls right in line with that area of focus. I am extremely proud of our students for their willingness and eagerness to help others in need.”

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Fundraising for Nigeria

Mt. Vernon High School’s AfriCAN Club fundraises for three primary schools in River State, Nigeria. The club was founded in 2009. Since then, it has raised more than $13,000.

In its first year, the club raised $378. Last year, it raised $2,852.

Club co-facilitator and MVHS teacher Katie Weaver-Miller said each year’s fundraisers are student-led. Fundraisers are determined based on students’ ideas. Past fundraisers include selling T-shirts and hosting a dance.

“We are always trying to beat the previous year’s amount, and donations are always welcome,” Weaver-Miller said. “Some years are better than others, but the key is being consistent and steadfast in our mission to help others in whatever capacity we can.”