As part of day of service, Indian Hills students pack school supplies for Shawnee Mission classmates in need

Indian Hills students assembled backpacks full of school supplies for SMSD families in need as part of the school's day of service.
Indian Hills students assembled backpacks full of school supplies for SMSD families in need as part of the school’s day of service.

Most Thursday mornings, Indian Hills Middle School students would be in their seats in class. Today, they’re out serving the community.

In an effort to reinforce the tenets of the school’s HONOR code — which encourages students to display honesty, optimism, neighborliness, staying on task, and being responsible and respectful – students today fanned out across the area to volunteer in one of 12 service projects, from building bird houses at Brighton Gardens in Prairie Village to sorting donated items at the Adelante Thrift Store in Kansas City, Kan.

But some of the students’ efforts were benefitting their own Shawnee Mission School District classmates.

One group of about two dozen students headed to the Broadmoor building where they assembled backpacks full of school supplies for district students in need. Those backpacks will be given to families identified by the district’s social workers as needing assistance ahead of the coming school year.

David Aramovich, a social worker who oversees the district’s McKinney-Vento programming, said the number of Shawnee Mission families in need of assistance has grown in recent years, with many families struggling to find affordable housing even when one of the parents is employed.

“In Johnson County, we need to have more affordable housing and higher paying jobs,” he said. “People don’t really quite understand it, that you can have a job and still not be able to afford a home.”

Amy Haulmark, an Indian Hills PTA parent who coordinates that group’s school supply collection efforts and who accompanied the student volunteers Thursday, said the amount of need among district families would surprise many.

“I’m sure a lot of people, including my own child, have no idea how fortunate they are,” she said. “In Johnson County and the Shawnee Mission district, most children have what they need, but they don’t realize that there are many children in our district who don’t. And that number has been growing.”

The Indian Hills students are reconvening after their volunteer shifts this afternoon for an end-of-the-school-year picnic at Harmon Park in Prairie Village.