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Posted: Wednesday, November 19th 2008 at 11:52am

'Who I Am Makes a Difference' launched in middle schools

By Staff
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GAINESVILLE - The Hall County Asset Initiative (HCAI) recently recognized North Hall Middle School students April Barth, Christopher Bellows and Justine Puett for their essays on “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”

The HCAI is a partnership of United Way of Hall County, Hall County Commission for Children and Families, Center Point, Hall County Schools, AVITA Community Partners, District 2 Public Health and Cargill.

The sixth grade “Who I Am Makes a Difference” project is based on the Blue Ribbon story. A true story, in 1988, a teacher in New York honored every one of her high school students by placing a blue ribbon above their hearts. Then she invited her students to do the same thing by honoring people throughout the community who had made an impact on them.

With this recognition objective in mind, North Hall Middle School Power Team was the first to launch “Who I Am Makes a Difference” in seven area middle schools. As part of the program, every sixth grade student was recognized for the difference they make in others’ lives and given a packet with three blue “Who I Am Makes a Difference” wristlets. They were encouraged to wear one, give one to someone who made a difference in their life and ask that person to recognize someone else. The NHMS Power Team, made up of nine sixth grade students, helped mobilize the program by putting up posters and delivering packages of wristlets to all homerooms.

Sixth graders also participated in an essay contest designed to give students a chance to explain who they gave their wristlets to and why. Three essays from the school were selected for recognition. In addition to Thursday’s event, essay contest winners April Barth, Christopher Bellows and Justine Puett were also recognized with a special certificate, a United Way T-shirt and gift cards.

At Thursday’s event, corporate sponsor Cargill was acknowledged with a thank you card designed and signed by Power Teams from all seven area middle schools. Local employees from Cargill presented the first check of a five-year grant of $50,000 to United Way of Hall County to support the HCAI activities in middle schools in Hall County.

Gainesville Middle, Chestatee Middle, East Hall Middle, West Hall Middle, South Hall Middle and CW Davis Middle launched their “Who I Am Makes a Difference” projects Nov. 17. Activities are going all week, culminating with writing assignments in language arts classes.

Chestatee Middle School Power Team took the project to the whole school. They videotaped Public Service Announcements for their inter-school TV station, made presentations to the teachers and encouraged all students to get involved. Said one team member, “My teacher really believed I could do math and now I am one of the best in the class.” School essay winners will be recognized the week of Dec. 1.

The Hall County Asset Initiative partnership with Cargill and the Gainesville-Hall County Community Service Center grant provided the funding to expand the successful sixth grade model into the seventh grade in all seven middle schools. The seventh grade teams will launch their project: “txt: show u care” in January 2009.


Hall County Asset Initiative, a partnership between United Way of Hall County, Hall County Commission for Children and Families, Gainesville City and Hall County School Systems, Center Point, the Department of Public Health, AVITA Community Partners and Cargill is a youth empowerment and substance abuse prevention initiative. Its mission is to train, support and encourage youth to become change agents in their communities by focusing on asset building in the lives of middle school youth.

HCAI focuses on developing leadership skills and planning and implementing peer focused substance abuse prevention projects and community service projects. With the support of Cargill and Gainesville-Hall County Community Service funding, HCAI supported Center Point’s expansion of its successful sixth grade Power Team model to the seventh grade, know as SWAT (Students Working Against Tobacco) Teams.

Team members, chosen by counselors and graduation coaches, reflect the diversity of their schools, have leadership potential and need a venue in which to grow and shine. The teams engage in leadership development, drug prevention projects and service learning opportunities. Their projects engage whole schools, positively impacting their peers and making a difference the community.

Cargill’s corporate philosophy makes it a great partner in this effort. It has committed to enriching its communities through education programs, promoting leadership development and helping socio-economically disadvantaged youth to develop logic and thinking skills. This commitment to caring for communities will foster an atmosphere of volunteering in our youth that can last a lifetime. For more information go to

For more background on “Who I am makes a difference,” go to: or
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