Mill Creek students use Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grants to make their own impact

Cheryl Darnton has long believed that one part of her role as a middle school social studies teacher at Mill Creek is to help students understand some of the difficult issues and challenges in the world. She wants to give her students an opportunity to act on an issue that is monumental and to see that they have the power to do something to help.

“The students at this age are starting to become young adult thinkers, many are paying attention to current events, and the transition from the protected comfort of childhood to the harsh reality of global issues is a big one,” she says.

Starting the Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grants was one way that Darnton’s students could engage in an act of hope and action. The grants are the continuing legacy of Laurence Carolin, a local high school student and former student of Darnton’s who succumbed to cancer in 2010.

Darnton has incorporated Laurence’s mission against extreme poverty into her 7th grade Global Studies classes ever since Laurence’s death. Using Laurence’s example as inspiration for her class, she explores the struggles other people face around the world and how her students can look for ways to help.

“I love the fact that Laurence’s legacy is a model for my students. He was a young person who made a difference, and they can, too,” she says. “Before students wrote the grants this spring, I taught them about Laurence’s life and legacy.”

After the program was shut down last year because of COVID, Darnton and her students picked right back up this year and are back on track with 10 grants of $100 each. These grants represent the efforts of 34 kids (most working in groups on the same grant proposal) who were selected this spring to be funded.

Two years ago (spring 2019) was the first time the class wrote Laurence Carolin Grants.

“What I saw in my classroom was amazing,” Darnton said. “Students were inspired by the idea that they could actually make a difference by supporting a non-profit organization doing important work in the world for people who need it most.

“This year I saw a similar level of inspiration among the students. I admit that the pandemic made it difficult for a few of our remote learners to engage fully to complete their work on time. While each group selected the organization for which they wanted to write their grant, each individual had to complete the application. In order to be considered for funding, the grant had to be turned in by the deadline.”

Darnton selected the best-written grant from each group to bring to the committee. The committee consisted of Darnton, Lisa Carolin and Suzanne Murphy.

“Last year students were assigned a country to which they applied their learning of economics and demographics throughout the year,” Darnton said. “This year I was teaching from the Summit Learning space. The Summit Learning project was called ‘Global Summit.’ The kids learned a little bit about the G7 and the role of that group in the world and the students were introduced to some of the global issues that the G7 is supposed to work on, such as climate change, extreme poverty, hunger, water scarcity, equality, overpopulation, etc.”

Students worked in self-selected groups, mostly two to five students. This year, Darnton wanted to make a point of leveraging the friendships among kids for group work, in light of the sense of isolation that the pandemic created for many kids, so she asked them to choose their own group mates. And each of the student groups chose a global issue that they wanted to study.

Their task was three-fold:

First, they had to research the global issue they chose to create a presentation to teach the class. They had to learn about the human impact of the issue, find a location (country or region) where the issue is salient and describe the situation, and they had to explore solutions. Kids found solutions on the United Nations website and on the websites of a variety of non-profit organizations that are working on solving major world problems.

Second, the groups had to present their slideshows to their classmates (half were presented in-person and half were via our live Zoom class). They had to take on the role of teacher and fielded questions and did their best to answer them.

Third, they had to write a Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grant proposal to fund a non-profit organization that is working to provide a sustainable solution to the global issue they studied. The work of the non-profit organization could be focused anywhere in the world. Each grant was for $100.

“This process gives students an opportunity to act on an issue that is monumental, to see that they have the power to do something to help,” Darnton says. “This leads to the development of their becoming global citizens. There is a saying, ‘Think globally, act locally.’ In their lifetimes these kids will be required to act locally in many ways to mitigate the effects of climate change and other problems we face in the world. They need to have an understanding of some of the ways global issues affect other people who do not live in affluent areas, are not surrounded by freshwater, and who may not have access to jobs or free education.

“I want them to develop the intellectual understanding of these issues and impacts so they can empathize enough to be willing to act. Our daily decisions about how we use water, electricity, and the cars we buy will become more important as we come together to improve the problems humanity faces.”

Anyone who would like to donate to the Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grants can do so. Checks should be made payable to Dexter Community Schools and sent to Mill Creek Middle School attn: Laurence Carolin Grants, 7305 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd, Dexter, MI 48130. Donations are NOT tax deductible because they are passing the donations on to other charitable organizations and are not using them directly for public school purposes.

For more on Laurence Carolin, click HERE

The following are several quotes from students taken from their grant applications.

From AINSLIE R’S grant application for Forgotten Harvest:

Question: Give specific information explaining how the project supports sustainable development.

This organization’s number 1 long-term goal is to stop food waste, they have many short-term goals to see this through. They take food that would have otherwise been wasted (from restaurants, caterers, grocery stores). Furthermore, they take that food and put it on the table of families that were in need of it and couldn’t get it for themselves.

Question: Please give details about the impact of the project from the perspective of 5 years from now. In other words, what are the impacts five years out?

Five years from now we hope that communities will work together to solve food waste. Solving food waste is the number one step to start a chain reaction. When food waste is solved and the food goes to people in need, hunger will start to slowly decrease. In conclusion, 5 years from now we hope that people start to acknowledge food waste and want to stop it.

Question: Why did you choose to write a Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grant for this project?

We chose to write this grant because people need help, so many are struggling to feed their families. Forgotten Harvest makes 40 meals for every ten dollars, with a $100 dollar grant they will provide 400 meals to those in need. It might not be a huge project that will change the world, but it will change people’s lives and even a small impact could turn into something huge.


From JASON H’s grant application for Global Fund for Women:

Question: Give specific information explaining how the project supports sustainable development.

It provides sustainable development by teaching and helping women in the fight for freedom against violence, equal pay, and domestic and sexual rights. They also are inspiring people to make their own groups to fight against gender inequality.

Question: Please give details about the impact of the project from the perspective of 5 years from now. In other words, what are the impacts five years out?

I believe that the impact in five years could be that the world would drastically improve for women if we can work to end all types of gender inequality, including the gender pay gap, child marriage, and unequal education. This inequality affects women, men, kids, and the world because if we end the pay gap, the global GDP will actually rise. If we all work together, we can make a difference.

Question: Why did you choose to write a Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grant for this project?

One reason I wrote a Laurence Carolin Grant is that the money could help me make a difference. Another reason is that this inequality affects everyone, male or female, adults and children. Ending gender inequality will improve the world.


From EVA P’s grant application for Pure Water for the World

Question: What is the purpose or goal of the project for which you are writing a grant?

The purpose of writing this grant is to help people that are in need. Writing a grant to this non-profit organization can really help people in Haiti that are living without clean water or adequate sanitation due to to a very destructive earthquake in January of 2010 . To help resolve their crisis, Pure Water for the World can get them water filters, make rain water harvesting systems, latrines, and educate these people on hygiene and sanitation. With the help of donations, Pure Water for the World can get funds to buy materials and travel to different areas. 

Question: Give specific information explaining how the project supports sustainable development.

The projects in Haiti help to bring safe and clean water to communities, the organization works specifically with family and community members to find out what is right for them. One of the main things they do is educate the community about sanitation and hygiene, as well as make water systems and water filters. They also help schools by building them latrines, getting them water filters, and teaching about cleanliness and sanitation. This project supports sustainable development by giving the people knowledge that can remain relevant for years as well as safe and clean water systems, that will continue to work throughout generations. The organization also makes an effort to keep in touch and monitor these communities to make sure everything is working successfully and that all things they have helped to implement are having a positive outcome.

Question: Please give details about the impact of the project from the perspective of 5 years from now. In other words, what are the impacts five years out?

In 5 years many communities will continue to thrive, knowledge of cleanliness and sanitation will pass down with every generation and all the latrines, filters, and water systems will remain in place.

Question: Why did you choose to write a Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grant for this project?

The Laurence Carolin Sustainable Impact Grant can really help these people, 100 dollars can help approximately 50 people get safe water, which is extremely good for small, rural communities that need clean water and good sanitation. This grant has been very helpful for many different causes and the funds from the grant can greatly benefit even more people that really need it. 

Question: What else would you like the committee to know?

There is an insane amount of people struggling with the water crisis, children, girls, women, people of all ages, races, and genders are suffering because of sicknesses, diseases, parasites, and dehydration. Communities that have recurring droughts can sometimes not make enough food for people to eat because there isn’t enough water for farming, which then causes malnutrition as well. When looking at what has been happening, it is important to note that we can make a change, we can do something if we have the opportunities, and when we have those opportunities we need to take them and act on them. 

MAIN PHOTO: Laurence Carolin


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