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’It just feels right to help them:’ Students building benches, donating proceeds to help peers in Ukraine

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Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 19:06:23-04

HOLLAND, Mich. — For eighth graders Mia Ross and Leinad Hollon, Mr. Boerman’s STEM class is what they look forward to most during the day.

“It’s my favorite because unlike all the other classes it gives us room to explore,” Ross said during an interview with FOX 17 on Wednesday morning. “We get to build. We get to learn how to cook. We just learned how to use drills. We made a bench in STEM class. Not many other schools get to learn how make a bench during their STEM day.”

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. For the past few weeks, Ross, Hollon and other eighth graders have been building benches, doing everything from measuring the wood, cutting it, nailing the slabs together, and sanding them down.

“I was absent one day and then I come back to school and found out we’re making benches to help Ukrainian refugees,” Hollon said. “I go ‘That’s awesome. I’m totally into this.’”

All the students were, they said.

They built the benches and sold them at $500 each, using the money to initially pay for the school’s greenhouse expenses.

However, after the war broke out in Ukraine they decided to donate the money to UNICEF to help their peers overseas.

“With everything going on right now, it just feels right to help them, especially the children who are losing their homes, families, education, and everything,” Ross said. “This money can go to things that can really help them out.”

So far, they made and sold three benches. They’re working on a fourth one. Boerman said they made sure each bench was made to perfection, sparing no detail.

“The Bench itself is 6-feet long. When we originally looked at the designs, there was debate on whether they were going to put arms on or not,” Boerman recalled. “That would’ve been a lot easier not too. But, they were like ‘Nope, we really want it.’ And so they were willing to work through the process of learning how to make that happen, which then they said ‘I’ll do it.’”

Boerman said the students have been excited about the benches. As a STEM teacher, he was thrilled to see them use their math, engineering, and technology skills in the process.

However, he’s most proud of their hearts and generosity.

“I want them to grow up into adults that realize they can make a difference,” he said. “To just stand on the sideline and say ‘Oh well, I can’t do anything’ is not what a responsible citizen is. I think any teacher wants their students to grow to be responsible citizens not only in our country but in our world.”

When the fourth bench is completed, the 8th graders will have raised $2,000. After that the money will be donated to UNICEF.

In the meantime, the students said they’re grateful they get to help their peers who live on the other side of the world.

“We want them to know that we’re always here to support them,” Ross said. “We’re here to help and we hope they’re all doing OK and we hope that they get through these hard times.”

***For donations, make a check payable to Holland Middle School or reach out to Boerman at***