QUINCY -- Michelle Harris wants to see her students not only learn about life skills but put them into practice.
Their weekly coffee cart project -- selling coffee and snacks each Friday before classes begin at Unity Middle School in Mendon -- and cooking on Fun Food Fridays help the cross categorical special education students hone important skills for the future.
"When we cook, they get to see the recipe, measure ingredients, learn how to follow a recipe and work on sequencing. We try to do recipes they could eventually make on their own at home," Harris said.
"With the coffee cart, that gives students an opportunity to learn a lot of job skills. They have to know how to approach a customer, take an order, fill that order properly, take money and be able to give change," she said. "It gives them some real-life job experience."
Financial support for both projects comes through the Adams County Medical Society Alliance and its Healthy Students grant program.
The $250 grant "supplies us with most of what we need throughout the school year," Harris said. "Without it, my students would not have as many opportunities for these life skills."
The alliance this year fully or partially funded 28 of 36 applications from 20 different schools in Adams County for a total of $7,499.97. Grants of up to $250 per teacher per classroom or up to $500 if more than one classroom is involved are awarded each fall for programs to be implemented in that school year.
"Our goal is to support health projects in Adams County," said Sandy Schlepphorst, who chairs the grants committee. "We've done a lot of projects through the years to promote learning a little more about keeping ourselves healthy, physically and mentally."
Funds from Blessing Hospital, Quincy Medical Group and the Adams County Medical Society are matched by fundraising efforts by the alliance, a group of physician spouses, to provide the grants launched some 10 years ago when school funding was being cut.
"We just felt like one thing probably being ignored was any focus on healthy living, healthy lifestyles," Schlepphorst said, and the grant program provided "a way to bring attention to it, a little bit of money and a way to support our goals in the area too."
Teachers apply for grants beginning in August to help fund informational posters and projects, field trips and supplies for new and ongoing efforts.
Quincy High School nurse Tracy Schutte sought a grant to launch a project providing an emergency kit bucket for each classroom at the school, an idea she brought back from a state emergency and disaster training. Working with five other teachers, Schutte spearheaded $3,000 in grants to cover buckets and shipping costs for most of the 161 classrooms at QHS.
The buckets will be stocked with a first aid kit, supplies tied to the new "stop the bleed" campaign, a trauma blanket, food, water and cat litter to convert the bucket into a toilet in the event of a lockdown.
"When you're locked in, you can't go anywhere. You have no food, no water, no bathroom and you may have 25 to 30 kids in the classroom," Schutte said, and with the grant, "It's not just an idea anymore. It's in the planning process, the implementation process. I feel comfortable now that we've got somewhat of a start to ask people for supplies. Our nursing department doesn't have the funds to fill these buckets."
Schlepphorst said the alliance was happy to be able to fund "a big chunk" of a timely project -- and one that expands its initial goals.
"We really want students learning about health, but the more we thought about it, this is a preparedness thing. They know about the bucket being available and can anticipate possible emergencies, think about their own homes and keep safe with emergency plans," Schlepphorst said. "It's another way of keeping them healthy and safe."
Schutte hopes to have the buckets ordered and assigned to classrooms by the end of the school year and spur another school to start on the project for next year.
"We'll get it done. There's no doubt in my mind we'll get it done," Schutte said.
Knowing there's community support through the alliance for their projects makes a difference to teachers and their students.
"They can feel that support when they know that those things haven't all been purchased just by their teacher or their mom and dad," Harris said. "It's community providing it for us."