Ethical & Global: Bernard Middle Academy students making a difference for homeless Veterans

Ethical & Global: Bernard Middle Academy students making a difference for homeless Veterans
Posted on 05/03/2021
Bernard Middle School VCP ambassadorsStudents in Bernard Middle School’s Patriot Academy are making a difference in the battle to eliminate veteran homelessness by serving as ambassadors for Veterans Community Project

“I started the tiny homes project a few years ago as a way for students to look at geometry and area in the real world,” said Amber Mathews, Patriot Academy teacher. “VCP had their dedication ceremony for their land in St. Louis just before we began the project, so I thought this was the perfect time to show students an organization that is meaningful and impactful in our community.” 

VCP is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate Veteran homlessness by constructing tiny house villages and on-site services to ready Veterans for permanent housing. Academy students launched the project in January by meeting virtually with VCP co-founder Brandonn Mixon. 

After that meeting, students began researching what they should consider when designing the tiny homes, including furniture, paint colors and the ideal layout. Students first developed ideas individually, then began working in groups to take the best ideas from each person to design and construct their tiny homes. 

“In the past, students have had these big, grand ideas for the tiny home project, but now they had a client and a person in mind,” said Mathews. “The collaboration between students was insane.”
Academy students work on tiny homes

Image: After researching independently, Academy students collaborated with a group to combine the best elements from their individual homes into their final product. 

After the student homes were constructed, some Bernard Middle School staff members were invited for pitch meetings where students explained the elements of their tiny home, their decision-making process and how their home worked with the budget they were given. 

“With the pitch meetings, they’re going outside the walls of the Academy and working on their public speaking, which allowed me to join in and give them pointers,” said Jefferson Stephens, Bernard Middle School Academy Teacher.
Bernard tiny homes projectImage: After researching, designing and constructing their tiny homes, Academy students developed pitches and presented their homes to Bernard Middle School staff.

While Mathews was leading students in learning geometry for the project, Stephens was helping students develop persuasive writing skills. Students identified a company in the community that they believed could assist VCP in helping Veterans. They developed persuasive letters to those companies while providing each other feedback on their letters along the way. 

“Veteran homelessness is a really big issue, so we’re trying to spark awareness by reaching out to companies about this and hoping for donations,” said Harper Young, Bernard Middle School Academy student. 
Academy students work on persuasive letters
Image: Academy students wrote persuasive letters to businesses in our area and provided feedback to their peers before sending them off.

Students also had the opportunity to meet virtually with Adam McBride, the Executive Director of the St. Louis chapter of VCP about the progress they had made. 

“Regardless of what comes from the letters or the project, only positive things come from the work they’ve done,” said McBride. “To know that the students are as engaged as they are and that it means so much to them, that’s the juice that keeps me going every day.” 

McBride hopes to put some of the tiny homes created by students on display in the VCP’s St. Louis headquarters. 

While students have learned geometry, persuasive writing and public speaking during the project, their teachers hope they take away the knowledge that they can make a difference. 

“It makes me so happy to see our students developing into people that care about others,” said Mathews. “It’s been so empowering for them to see that even though they may be 11 or 12, they can make a difference and do something in their community.” 

The VCP project aligns with all five areas of Mehlville School District’s Portrait of a Graduate which aims to develop students who are Creative & Critical Thinkers, Self Aware, Persistent, Communicators and Ethical & Global Citizens. 

Watch the video to learn more about the VCP Ambassadors project. 

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