FCPS students promote donations and awareness of charities in English class

By Nikki McKim

As part of his English II class assignment for the past four years, Falls City Public School teacher Jason Bredemeier has donated $500 to various charities.

Bredemeier has his Sophomore English class write persuasive speeches about different charities. They can choose from a list or pick their own. They dive deep into the background of the charity, the problems it tackles, and the services it provides. It’s all about raising awareness and helping out.

Most of the time, students pick a charity close to their hearts, something they have a personal connection with. Their speeches have to be three to five minutes long, backed by at least three sources. They even create visual aids to make their speeches more impactful.

After writing their speeches, the students can present them in front of the class. Not only does Mr. Bredemeier grade them, but he also encourages the students to evaluate each other’s speeches based on the quality of the speech and the impact of the charity’s work. 

It’s a project Bredemeier said he fell in love with when he helped with a Public Speaking Class through SCC. One of the teachers, Jacob Bonander, used to do the assignment every year with his persuasive speech. After Bonander stopped teaching the class, other teachers used the assignment, and after a few years, Bredemeier decided to incorporate the charity portion into his persuasive speech assignment. 

“It’s now become one of my favorite assignments of all time that I do in my classroom,” stated Bredemeier. “After all of the speeches have been given, I add up all the scores, and the highest score is the winner for their class. I have four English II classes, so I have four different winners. I donate $25 to each of the winning charities each year. Sometimes, I donate extra if there is merchandise involved. For example, I donated extra money to the World Wildlife Fund last year and got a panda hoodie. I wear that hoodie to school every once in a while to remind the students of the positive impact that they can make in life.”

Over the past few years, the winners have included 2020: Madi Jones – Africa Impact Foundation; Alexis Miller – Coral Reef Alliance; Gaby Niedfeldt – JDRF (Type 1 Diabetes); Reece McNeely – Freedom Service Dogs. 

2021: Emily Vitosh – Trevor Project; Grace Morris – Boys and  Girls Clubs of America; Lexi Brewer – Richardson County Cancer Fund; Kinley Scholl – Sammy’s Superheroes.

2022: Sierrah Vermeer – National Multiple Sclerosis Society; Trinity Pierce – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; Emilou Schulenberg – World Wildlife Fund; Konner Keim – Nebraska Humane Society.

This school year’s winners were Addy Sayer – Make a Wish.

“This charity provides the services of making children’s wishes come true so they can live life to the fullest. A prime example of this is a 12-year-old boy named Samuel, whose greatest wish was to become an officer in the Columbian army. Although he has bone cancer, the Make-A-Wish Foundation found ways to make his wish come true. He got to spend a day meeting troops, watching drills, and even getting his own military uniform. Wishes like this bring hope to kids like Samuel. These wishes coming true inspires kids to look to the future and helps them cope with their treatment journey. But they need help to continue granting these wishes. Did you know that the average cost of one wish is $9,000? Although they raise around $7.5 million dollars annually, this is still not enough. There are still an estimated 27,000 children in the United States that are diagnosed with a qualifying condition for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. They need our help to give these innocent children the wishes they deserve. According to the Make-A-Wish website, there are several things you can do to help this charity and support them. You can become a volunteer, donate money, donate airline miles, and even adopt a wish. There are so many ways you can transform these kids’ lives. They have over 24,000 volunteers who love to help these children.”

Ella Glathar – Donate Life America. 

“Donate Life America does a number of things to spread their mission. They provide access to sign up to be a donor. Most people do this when they register for their driver’s license at 16. They sell license plates to spread awareness. They are $40, and 75% of the money goes to the DLA education fund. Their education fund shares stories of organ donation and breaks the stigma around it. If you go on the DLA website, there are many families’ stories shared. 

My personal story is my Uncle Chris. On June 23, 2013, my uncle suddenly passed away. Thankfully, he was an organ donor. His heart, lungs, kidney, and tissue were donated. Some recipients have gotten in touch with us, but one recipient has continued to stay in touch with us over the years. On June 24, 2013, Dave Hetzel got a second chance at life by receiving my uncle’s heart. If my uncle had not clicked yes, Dave would’ve missed his two children and six grandchildren’s lives. Without organ donation, our families would not have come together, and Dave wouldn’t have had his second chance at life. To contribute to Donate Life America, you can fundraise on behalf of DLA. My grandma has done this multiple times at events uptown. She gives out registration forms, flyers, and cool swag, like these sunglasses. The easiest option is to just become an organ donor. If you aren’t already, you can register online at RegisterMe.org or do it at the DMV. Some people become a living donor where they donate a kidney and or liver whilst living. Another way to donate is just to donate money. This will go towards their education fund.”

Gavin Bauer – Special Olympics.

“What does Special Olympics do? According to specialolympics.org, they “strive to create a better world by accepting and including everyone.” Special Olympics teaches and finds skills among the intellectually disabled. Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and competitions based on Olympic-type sports. According to specialolympics.org, “to qualify, you must be at least eight years old and identity by an agency or professional as having one of these conditions: intellectual disabilities, cognitive delays, or significant learning or vocational problems.” Special Olympics includes more than 5.5 million athletes, and they have 1.1 million coaches and volunteers around the world, helping with events and more.”

Austin Stewart – MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).

“By a show of hands, how many of us have siblings? Well, I used to have three, but due to drunk driving. I lost my nine-year-old brother, Brandon, on June 15, 2022. We all thought at one point in our lives that we wished our siblings would just leave and never come back. Well, I thought that about all my brothers, Brandon, Colton, and Ethan. But when we got the news of Brandon’s passing, it was like living in a nightmare. I can’t go back in time and change the outcome of the tragedy, and if I were to, I’d hold him and never let go. I’d tell him how much I love him. I’d protect him no matter what. I think I failed as a brother and that has to stick with me for the rest of my life until I take my final breath and finally be reunited with my baby brother—enough about me. Let me tell you about a nonprofit charity called Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD for short. According to MADD 43.6% of fatally injured drivers tested positive for drugs, 13,384 people died from drunk driving in 2021, and 4,300 people under the age of 21 are killed each year due to drunk driving and Brandon sadly fell into the group of 13,384 people. MADD’s goal is to end drunk driving so you don’t have to go through what I do. I wouldn’t wish this upon my greatest enemy.

MADD is trying worldwide to stop this senseless crime, and with your help in donating, you could save lives because you never know when or where this could happen. I sure as hell didn’t think it would happen to our family. And you don’t know if it could happen to your family. According to Alcohol.org, Since 1980, MADD reports that they have helped to cut drunk driving deaths in half and saved around 350,000 lives. The victims of drunk and drugged driving crashes are not statistics. They are mothers, children, spouses and brothers. Brandon, if I could say one last thing to you, it would be that you were an amazing brother, and I love you with all my heart.”

Using his role as a teacher, Mr. Bredemeier aims for more engagement from her students with issues outside of the classroom, hoping the kids know the positive impact they can make when they feel passionate about giving back to the world.

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