Hebron fifth-graders headed to Capitol

HEBRON – A six-week service learning project has turned into a year-long pursuit and earned Alden-Hebron Elementary School fifth-graders a trip to Springfield.

The class has jumped from presentation to presentation this school year, spreading the word about the need for organ donors. Later this month, they'll bring their message to the Rotunda floor at the state capitol.

The youngsters have embraced the opportunities that have come their way since media coverage of their original project – a presentation to a group of driver's education students – brought opportunities for future presentations.

"From there, it kind of just spiraled and they got more opportunities to spread the word," said Holly Latas, who teaches the class.

The students were initially drawn to the topic by a statistic that 18 people die a day awaiting an organ transplant. The fifth-graders decided to choose organ donation as the topic of their service learning project, which is typically a six-week endeavor.

But the class has fallen in love with the topic and taken it far beyond those six weeks. The students have spoke with state representatives and mayors. They presented to Secretary of State Jesse White in November.

With help from Sen. Pam Althoff (R-McHenry), they will bring their presentation to Springfield on May 21 – a day that will mean more to the class for its ability to spread their central message than for personal validation, Latas said.

"After the end of the presentation, they're always like, 'What can we do next?' " she said.

The class' efforts have also brought them in touch with Donna Frett, a local liver transplant recipient who now runs the Donna Frett Organ Donation Foundation.

The class is hosting a 5K to benefit Frett's foundation on Saturday. Those interested can learn more and get a sign-up sheet at alden-hebron.org.

Frett said she's been "in awe" of the class' determination since she came into contact with them last fall. She said the class' passion has far exceeded the parameters of the six-week project.

"I have 15 new little friends," Frett said. "Even though they're going to sixth grade next year, I really think they will still support organ donation."

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