By Casey Hans
Volunteering has shaped Nick Shannon. Soon to be a junior at Pioneer High School, Shannon said his experience with the Enough! Club at Tappan Middle School began a personal journey and colored his view of the world and his approach to life.
In 3 years, club members have raised more than $46,000 in donations and grants to help others around the world and in their own back yard.
“I was right on board from the beginning,” Shannon said. “I said ‘where do I sign up?’ Honestly, 90 percent of what I’ve done has been influenced by what I did at Tappan.”
Shannon walks the talk. He has gone on to serve this year on the Ann Arbor Community Foundation Youth Council and has recently launched the Ann Arbor Teens for Kids, an organization that takes volunteer teens and pairs them with local businesses and other groups. The new group will also host it’s own community-based programs and events.
“With volunteering, there’s no regrets,” he said. “You’re doing it just to help people. After you’ve volunteered you just feel so great. After my time at Tappan, I decided I’d like to do it (help people) for a living.”
The “Enough! Club” name came from students having enough of what they need … and having had enough of social injustice and poverty in the world, explained club adviser and Tappan teacher Laura Roth.
The club came into being during the 2007-08 school year with just a dozen members. The student-run club has grown into 50 members that have motivated the Tappan community to build schools in Kenya and Sierra Leone, bring fresh drinking water to overseas countries, raise money to fight genocide in Darfur, help an independent coffee farming operation in Mexico and have help to feed children overseas.
Locally, the club raised about $2,200 this year for Ann Arbor Active Against ALS – known as A2A3 – to support research to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
“We raise money and we also try to raise awareness for appreciating all we have,” said Roth, who was encouraged to start the club by Gary Court, then principal at Tappan. “The seed has been planted. That’s what they’re going to find the most meaningful.”
In addition to fundraising, Enough! Club members have written letters to Michigan legislators about the Asian carp issue, raised awareness about global water issues, encouraged the use of reusable water bottles and promoted causes through events such as in Vow of Silence Day, Service Day and Water Week.
The club is affiliated with the University of Michigan’s Project Healthy Schools and Free the Children, a nonprofit that has provided paid-in-full trips to Mexico and Arizona for Tappan students to learn about leadership, cultural differences and immigration issues. Two more students will go to Free The Children’s Leadership Program this summer in Arizona.
Shannon went on a Free the Children trip to Arizona and Mexico just after his eighth-grade year. His interest in the whole project began in the seventh grade, when Roth encouraged students to write editorials about the genocide in Darfur. She got several of them, including Shannon’s, published in The Detroit Free Press. He wrote another opinion piece independently and, the following year, was one of a dozen students to launch the Enough! Club.
Elaine Rosenberg of Free the Children, can’t say enough about Tappan’s leadership and dedication to the club. She said Roth and the Tappan students have been great to work with.
“All of the students seem to be so dedicated to the cause,” she said. “The really wonderful thing about the group, I think, is that the group comes together because they want to. There is no other incentive outside of the goodness of helping others around the world and in their community.”
Kathleen Kollman, another Pioneer High student, was an Enough! Club member during the 2008-09 school year as an eighth grader. She has yet to find a similar club at the high school level and still donates some of her babysitting money to the Tappan cause.
“I had such a good experience,” said Kollman, who will be a high school sophomore this year. “It was kind of life-changing. It made me stop and appreciate what I have. It opened my eyes.”
Kollman said she was quite involved in the Pennies for Darfur campaign, which collected 400,000 pennies to raise $4,000 that was sent to help the people of that African nation. She said she hopes to get enough interested generated to start an Enough! Club chapter at Pioneer this fall.
Roth’s friend and teacher, Joey Parins, started a similar club with the same name at Clague Middle School in the past year. In its first year, Clague students raised $5,000 to put in a water well in Sierra Leone; the second year, members began raising money to build a school which was interrupted when students intervened with a fundraiser following the Haiti earthquake, for which they raised $700.
Parins said the Enough! Club at Clague is a good way to get students involved across multiple grades and to raise awareness throughout the school. “They need to see there’s a bigger world,” she said. “And that when you give, you get. I looked at what Laura was doing and it really inspired me.”
In June, the Enough! Club at Clague sposored an overnight “lock-in” where students conducted vigils and walked miles around the school corridors to get an understanding of how long it takes people to walk to wells for fresh water in underdeveloped countries. Parins said nearly 70 students participated and raised $1,800.
Roth said she would like the Enough! Club principles adopted district wide at the middle school level. At that age, students “have such passion that if you give them direction, they can just branch out,” she added. “They are going to be the leaders in high school.”
Although students say Roth is key to the club’s success, the Tappan students have stepped up more each year and now run their own meetings and make their own decisions about projects. “”There’ nothing more important than this,” Roth added. “I think it will affect them for the rest of their lives.”
Visit the Tappan Enough! Club’s Web page by clicking here.
Any teens who want to become involved in Nick Shannon’s Ann Arbor Teens for Kids organization can visit the group’s Web page or e-mail the organizers at: A2teens4@gmail.com He said teens from all Ann Arbor high schools are welcome.