In past years. students in the sixth-grade literacy class at Park Street Intermediate School have voted to determine some of the organizations that would benefit from the fundraising component of their teen-activism unit.

This year, the entire school had a chance to weigh in on the decision.

"Each student in our literacy class selected a cause or organization that was important to them and did some research about their selected cause," said Whitney Linley, a sixth-grade language-arts and social-studies teacher.

On Jan. 11, the literacy students held a showcase in the school cafeteria, making presentations about their cause of choice to students from other classes.

Their goal was to convince their schoolmates why their cause should be the beneficiary of this year's fundraising effort.

"It will be determined by a vote of students and teachers," said Linley, who is conducting the teen-activism unit with gifted-intervention specialist Jennie Joseph.

The votes are expected to be tallied and an announcement of the recipient made by Friday, Jan. 19.

As part of their projects, the literacy students wrote a short paper on their selected cause, why it was important to them and how the organization might use money Park Street would donate.

In addition to the academic aspect of their project -- researching a topic, taking notes, writing their paper and creating their presentation -- the literacy students are learning something that might be just as important, Linley said.

"We're teaching them about how to be empathetic and how to care about a cause and get involved," she said. "We're trying to show them the difference one person can make if they just get involved."

Linley said she has been impressed with the students' passion.

"I love it," she said. "Most of them really seemed to take this seriously and find a cause they felt strongly about."

The organizations students supported were varied, Linley said.

"Some of the students selected health-related causes, such as cancer or Alzheimer's, others wanted to support animal shelters or other organizations protecting animals, and we also had some who chose environmental issues as their area of concern," she said.

Sara Solberg chose the Grove City Buddy Ball program as a nonprofit organization to support.

"I'm a travel-softball player, so softball is very important to me," she said. "I know how much fun I have playing softball and I think it's something everyone should have access to. I feel bad for anyone who doesn't."

Sara said she was surprised to learn that 19 percent of all Americans have a physical or mental disability.

"That was a lot higher than I thought it was," she said. "I don't think most people realize it's that many people."

Zeke Gibson's presentation was about the Pilot Dogs program, which provides guide dogs to the blind.

"I'm kind of a dog person," he said. "I realized that a lot of people have been served by this organization.

"Getting a guide dog can really make a difference in the life of a blind person. It's not just a dog who can help you get around and warn you that there's 'danger ahead.' They're also your companions," he said.

Zeke said he found preparing his presentation to be fun, interesting and inspirational.

"I'm definitely interested in doing more to help Pilot Dogs," he said. "I'd like to find a way to contribute something to help them with their mission. Even if it's a few dollars I can give, it will help them help somebody else."

For Brooke Jividen, the organization she chose to spotlight has personal meaning.

"I chose Breast Cancer Fund of Ohio because when I was 7, my grandmother died of breast cancer," she said. "I picked this organization in her memory.

"There are 250,000 women under age 40 in the U.S. living with breast cancer. It's not just older women who get it," she said.

Unlike a lot of cancer organizations, BCF of Ohio raises money to directly support breast cancer patients, not for research.

"It's a hard struggle when you're battling breast cancer, and they provide financial help for patients who are having difficulties paying their rent, groceries and medical bills," Brooke said. "It's a program started by cancer survivors for cancer survivors."

While making presentations to groups of students, Brooke said, she talked to a number of her schoolmates who have family members who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Someone who's going through and understands what your family's gone through, you make a connection with them," she said. "It's really affected me."

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