Shari “The Bag Lady” visits St. Philip School

It’s been almost two years since Shari Petrie, of Latonia, became known as “The Bag Lady.” Her passion as an environmentalist led her to crochet mats for people experiencing homelessness. The bags she uses may otherwise block the flow of streams, be hazardous to the metabolism of living organisms or pack landfills as the plastic used to make them does not break down overtime. Researchers estimate that 269,000 tons of plastic float on the ocean’s surface.

Shari and her recycled treasures
Shari showing Mrs. Twehues’ & Mrs. Dee’s students how to make plarn

In science class, students at St. Philip School learned about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and the negative impacts that plastic has on our waterways. Students then invited “The Bag Lady” to help them tie what they learned in the classroom with ways they can give back to the community. Shopping bags separated by the school’s 2nd graders were used by Mrs. Dee’s 4th grade and Mrs. Twehues’ 5th/6th split class to make plarn, plastic yarn. It takes just a few easy steps to produce plarn: fold a shopping bag in fourths, cut the folded bag into thirds and the final step is to slip knot the cut pieces together. To participate in creating plarn, join “The Bag Lady” at Mackenzie’s Work Shop January 12, 2018.

students making plarn
students making plarn

Northern Kentucky University freshman, Lexi Twehues, volunteered to help students make plarn. Students and teachers engaged their community, asking the school and parish members to donate plastic bags to be processed into plarn. Using an US Q, Shari will crochet the plarn into four “bean bag” chairs.  “The Bag Lady” expects to use anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 bags to complete one bean bag chair. All four chairs will be donated to the Duke Energy Children’s Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center.  Children’s Museum staff is excited to receive this donation and believe the chairs will help inspire visitors to recycle.

Students from St. Philip School with Shari “The Bag Lady”

Honoring Sophia with Mya’s Wish Come True

When classmate Sophia lost her life to cancer this year, Longbranch Elementary students and teachers grieved with Sophia’s family. In the midst of their sorrow and need to ‘do something’, Sophia gave them a powerful purpose when they passed her wish forward to help another child battling cancer treatment. Sophia had wanted nothing more than to swim with the mermaids at Disney World. Before her death, the Make-A-Wish Foundation made this happen for her and her family. When Principal Erika Bowles suggested to Mrs. Melanie Roberts that perhaps their school play could help the community heal and give back to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, teacher Mrs. Roberts and the director, Mrs. Regina Melvin, sprang to action. This is the story of how they empowered their students, teachers, parents, and community partners to collaborate around a powerful service learning experience.

Partnering with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in conjunction with their production of The Little Mermaid, Jr., students raised money for Mya, another local little girl with cancer that had a similar wish as Sophia’s. In addition to practicing their roles, creating props, sets, and market items, the students debated about how much to charge for the admittance. Their decision was to accept any donation people wished to give. In addition, students made items that were sold at the “Market” each night of the play. At last count, Longbranch students and teachers had raised $18,370.00!

Although Mya is still in treatment for lymphoma, a cancer that effects your immune cells, Mya and her family now have the opportunity to visit Disney World to meet with her favorite princesses, including Ariel. The purpose of the Make-A-Wish program is to bring hope, strength, and joy to children experiencing serious illness. These experiences give children something to look forward to despite all the challenges they face.

But the gift truly was reciprocal. Longbranch students and teachers connected learning with compassion, giving them strength and hope because of Sophia, Mya and their families. Members of the cast and crew reflected about what they experienced as their favorite parts of this project. Simone was “grateful to Conner High School students that volunteered by helping the Mersisters learn their lines”. Many students expressed their thanks to Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Melvin, Mrs. Steele, and others, for making the play happen. Fifth grader Malachi Beesley’s favorite thing is “how everyone gets to express different things.” Tyler Steffen, also a fifth grader, said his favorite thing about the play “is getting to honor Sophia and help Mya get her wish.” Crew member Christina Norsworthy agreed. Her favorite thing is that it is helping other people.

St. Cecilia Fifth Graders – Impacting the Children of Shelby County

“Kind of sad. It also made me feel so blessed for all of the food we have.”  A fifth grade girl shifted her weight as she shared her feelings. She belongs to Kathy Wustefeld’s fifth grade class at St. Cecilia in Northern Kentucky.

In November as the students excitedly returned from Thanksgiving break and eagerly stated their impatience for Christmas break, Ms. Wustefeld shared some information about students in Shelby County. She painted a raw picture of the students afraid to go home for a two week Christmas break due to the lack of food in their homes. These same children eat breakfast, lunch and a late afternoon snack at school. On weekends they are offered backpacks of snacks to take home with them.

The impact of this picture empowered the fifth grade class to make a difference. A raffle to raise money, a book drive, and a jacket drive were conducted at the school. For the raffle, students donated items from their homes. The students also gained a multitude of skills by encouraging the student body to buy tickets through classroom presentations, morning announcements, and posters created in art class. As students of all ages visited the raffle table, fifth graders paired up with kindergartners to help them with the process. A student describes his experience:

“It took a lot of patience because the kindergartens didn’t know what they wanted. But it was also fun and they were cute.”

Through the raffle 2,345 tickets were purchased, raising $586.30. The students learned a probability lesson by equating the chances for winners for each basket based on the number of tickets they had entered. They also used line graphs to measure which basket was the most popular and which was the least.

As a culmination, students prepared written reflections and made video clips to highlight their experiences… moving forward a little more grateful than before.

St. Philip – Ongoing Success

Service Learning St. PhilipChildren, Inc., the Jefferson Award Foundation and other sponsors are proud to recognize St. Philip School of Northern Kentucky for their ongoing success in implementing Service Learning into the classroom and community.  Because of this diocesan school, not only is the community being positively impacted, but the students are developing a deeper understanding for how to use their skills to make a difference in the world.


Reflecting upon elements of a successful service learning experience, 5th grade teacher  Jennifer Twehues says,

“A successful Service Learning project starts and ends with the students.  Projects must be student driven and student centered in order to be successful.  This influences our students’ daily lives and gives them a voice in a better society.  Students take away a life skill that encompasses compassion and gratitude.”

New Hope Food Pantry is a reoccurring community agency that is impacted by St. Philip’s students.  Ms. Twehues describes her school’s experiences with community partners as “fulfilling, rewarding, and gratifying”.

NKYAB – Baloney Brigade Campaign

Eight different high schools from across Northern Kentucky have come together this year to serve as the Northern Kentucky Youth Advisory Board (NKYAB). Throughout the year, students have been learning how to become effective leaders and have identified ways to make positive changes in their schools. Students focus on two guiding questions to focus their efforts at their respective schools:

  1. What does it take to make all students K-12 successful?
  2. How can students make that happen?

The NKYAB is hard at work planning for the end of the year Student Showcase on May 6th from 2:00-3:30 at Northern Kentucky University. This will be an opportunity for the public to come out and learn how students from Pendleton County HS, Grant County HS, Bracken County HS, Ryle HS, Cooper HS, Dayton HS, Notre Dame Academy, Highlands HS, and Holmes HS have made an incredible impact at their schools and communities.

NKYAB Slider 2

As they prepared their presentations and display posters, students paused to make sack lunches as part of the Baloney Brigade Campaign for the St. Francis-St. Joseph Catholic Worker House.

If you would like to learn more about the NKYAB, the Student Showcase, or how you can help, please email Kyle Reiser at

Erpenbeck Elementary – Scarf It Up For Those In Need

Erpenbeck Elementary School is a culture of engaged learning and deep compassion.

Second graders have put their learning into action to support Scarf It Up, a local nonprofit. This organization makes handmade scarves and they are in need of hats, gloves and mittens. Student teacher Alena Harthun has been leading an interdisciplinary unit in Mrs. Schreckenhofer’s 2nd grade class from MLK Day and culminating February 17. After studying climate, reading The Mitten Tree, and carrying out research using observations and surveys, the students collected winter hats, gloves/mittens for community members served by  Scarf it Up. Second graders counted, sorted, and charted the donations, and will present them to Scarf It Up with friendly notes and good wishes.

Holy Family School – Helping the Homeless

Holy Family Blanket and Teddy BareOn a warm day in mid October, educator Joan Myers-Hinzman, her colleague Beth Vieth, and Executive Director Kim Webb of the Emergency Shelter of NKY met at Holy Family School in Covington to discuss the needs of their community.  As a reoccurring School of Contribution, Holy Family has participated annually in service learning projects instilling civic engagement into their student body.  Bringing the Emergency Shelter of NKY to the table this year would provide the school with an unfiltered picture of homelessness, and increase the student’s awareness of homelessness in the community.

On November 30, Holy Family gathered its students for a canned food drive kick off assembly including a presentation given by Kim Webb.  She described not only what homelessness is, but also what her organization does to help.

“We are the only emergency shelter in NKY that provides emergency night time sheltering for adults in our region.  We are also the only shelter that accepts those actively addicted, ( also those that are) handicapped accessible and takes a direct referral from hospitals, jails and local law enforcement. Our winter life saving shelter is open from November 1- March 31 and when we are below freezing, we work hard to not turn any adult away that needs shelter. We are the safety net for adults.  This winter we have sheltered over 400 adults that needed a safe and warm place to sleep at night.”

Following the assembly Kim visited individual classrooms inviting the students to participate in age appropriate discussions.  From stuffing back packs to debunking myths, 65 students grades K-8 reflected together about uncomfortable topics such as homelessness, hunger, poverty, and unemployment.

By mid-December, 788 canned foods were hand delivered to Our Savior and St. Benedict Church Food Pantries.  But the students’ involvement didn’t end there.  As Catholic Schools Week in February approached, students organized and raffled a 53” teddy bear donated by Airport Ford, and also eight flannel tie blankets to raise money towards snack bag contents for the guests at the emergency shelter.  The students raised $118.00! Then snack bags were decorated, filled, and delivered in the first week of February.

Through this service learning project, not only did the students experience a greater depth of knowledge, but they helped meet a real community need.  Kim Webb believes service learning is an opportunity to inspire.

“Service Learning has had a tremendous impact at the Emergency Shelter of NKY in several ways.  Every donation has a direct impact on guests when they are in shelter. On our end, service learning has allowed the opportunity to educate the community and inspire the next generation of volunteers and donors in the world.”

Woodland Middle School’s Love for Reading

Continuing on with the legacy of Ms. Mary Siereveld’s commitment to service, Woodland Middle School Students decided to lend their talents in organizing a book drive to benefit the Northern Kentucky branch of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Students held the book drive during the weeks prior to Winter Break in an effort to provide comfort to fellow kids in the community. On January 18th, Ms. Siereveld and eight of her students had the privilege of delivering nearly 1400 books! As a special treat, students also had the opportunity to take a tour and learn about a variety of health care careers with Operations Coordinator, Ami Blackburn.

Ami was so impressed with the students and their collection of books stating, “The books entertain our patients and pass the time while they wait to see the doctor. Reading is a perfect opportunity to bond with a child. Our Speech coordinator was extremely excited–the bookcase in the Speech waiting room has been empty for quite some time.”

We look forward to Ms. Siereveld’s classes continuing their good works as they connect their love of reading and sharing it with others.

Learn more about Ms. Siereveld’s story and charitable fund (Mary’s Sock Fund) to support individuals at the UC Brain Tumor Center and her students’ commitment to service at the following links:

Camp Ernst Middle School – Passion and Service-Based Learning

Susan Howard, an innovative teacher and leader at Camp Ernst Middle School (Boone, KY),  drives service learning and project-based learning by sharing their students’ service learning experiences.  Beginning in 2015-2016, she and her students created and maintain a wonderful online resource at  The website includes stories of student “trail blazers”; their community contributions and growth as civic leaders.

Teddy “Bare” Challenge 2017

Children, Inc. Service Learning Coordinators prepare the bears to help your students address the “bare” necessities in their communities!

Click for the Teddy “Bare” Application


Sometimes, a simple thing can lead to deep learning.

We invite your students to create a purpose for one of the 3 huggable, plush teddy bears donated by Airport Ford!

All grade level students are invited to get creative, engage in research, read, interview, survey…. and then design a compassionate purpose for one of three adorable bears in such a way that they develop new knowledge, skills, and address a bare necessity in our region. Students and teachers can integrate the bear’s purpose into any subject area; but must connect to content while including student voice and a meaningful service/need.

 Applications must be emailed or faxed to Children, Inc. Service Learning Initiative by
5PM on January 26, 2017.
Fax 859.431.3385