Education Matters: Fowler students raise money to support veterans with PTSD

FOWLER, Calif. - You might think this is nothing more than a nice looking saddle, but it represents an almost yearlong effort by a group of middle school students committed to making a difference in their community.

“To see kids step us like this and just want to give and help – it just touches my heart,” said Guy Adams of Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch.

Adams, the director of the nonprofit, was the recipient of these students’ hard work. How and why they choose to support his organization is a lesson in civic responsibility.

“Thank you guys very much. Our original goal was $500, and we raised a total of $740. That’s awesome,” Adams said.

Sutter Middle School in Fowler is among a group of schools involved in the Fresno County middle school democracy program.

Last October they took part in a civic service summit at Scout Island, the outdoor learning center operated by the office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. During the daylong event, they honed their leadership skills, learned the importance of civic responsibility and talked about addressing important issues in their communities.

Their desire to help veterans grew out of a personal connection. They were able to meet Noah Galloway – the former army soldier and double amputee who performed on “Dancing with the Stars.”

Teacher Lea Steele said Galloway’s story ignited a fire in her students who sought to learn all they could about services for veterans especially those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“It’s a big problem in our country. Like the veterans that commit suicide with PTSD and we just thought we needed to help,” student Mitchell Uriarte said.

Their research about the role animal therapy could play in the treatment of PTSD led them to Adams and his ranch.

There they saw the work he was doing with veterans and young people with physical disabilities. They also learned that the ranch needed help

For the new saddle they needed $500 dollars. The students set out to raise half of the cost. They put up posters around the town of Fowler and their school. They also held a fundraiser and invited Adams to come speak.

At that event, they were able to present Adams with a check for $350 – more than their targeted goal. And once they added donations from their fundraiser, they found they had raised more than $700. But it was what they learned about themselves in the process that may be more important.

“It made me realize that helping our community is a lot more important than I thought,” student Bethany Gardner said. “I think it will really help me mature and understand other people’s problems and help the nonprofits, and I might want to do nonprofit when I’m older.”

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