When a group of sixth graders at Academy for Integrated Arts entered our photo contest, they had no idea how big of an impact they were about to have on their community.
Even though their school had recently moved to a beautifully renovated building, the kids turned their focus to an important thing that was still missing: a playground. So, when they won first place at their grade level and presented at the Champions for Health youth summit, they explained the importance of play, and how playground equipment can encourage kids to be active.
Lacy, a sixth grader, highlighted a study done by the University of Lethbridge by saying, “The experience of play is what changes the connections of neurons at the front end of your brain… Play is what prepares a young brain for life, love and even schoolwork.”
The kids decided to put their prize money towards the school fundraiser for playground equipment.
“I think it shows they are already thinking about ways they can give back to their community and this is a concrete way to do that. I think it also shows that they have an investment in their school and they care about the younger people here,” said Executive Director Tricia DeGraff.
This act of selflessness caught the attention of an anonymous donor who was so moved by the kindness of the kids that they decided to make a generous donation to the cause as well; $50,000!
“There was lots of cheering. I guess you could say the room erupted…” DeGraff said when describing the moment she told the students about the gift.
Since 2012, Academy for Integrated Arts has been educating children in the Kansas City area with the integration of arts into their curriculum. They also emphasize the importance of mindfulness and community.
“We work really hard to create a community where our older students see that it’s a responsibility to be kind and caring towards our younger students and to treat them like they would a younger cousin or sibling, and to just have this ethic of care and kindness,” said DeGraff.
Upon receiving the donation, school staff worked closely with students to pick out the playground equipment they wanted most. The money they have is going towards the purchase of a playground structure and swing set. To maximize their money, the Academy for Integrated Arts is hoping for a community work day to install the equipment themselves.
Champions for Health was founded as I AM HERE in 2013 with the goal of teaching faculty and students how their surroundings impact their health and how to advocate for change. Each year around a thousand students submit photos to our contest with the winners receiving $1,000 and a chance to take home a total of $2,500!
By Evan Pilkington, Volunteer Communications Intern