New Gulf Coast Middle School club teaches philanthropy, more

Published April 9 2015

SPRING HILL — The SPCA of Hernando County received a $150 check recently from some caring students to help it with its animal care work. The Gulf Coast Middle School students are in a new club that began in January — a club designed to help its members be good citizens as they head toward high school.

Van Hoda, 29, teaches career resources at Gulf Coast Middle, but he felt a need to expand his subject. The result: the after-school club, Career Associations.

"Career Associations helps prepare students for the outside world," said club member Alice Barlow, 14.

She explained that club members are learning Robert's Rules of Order and how to write resumes.

And there's more.

"We help raise money for philanthropy," Hoda said. "And we eat a lot of cupcakes."

Apparently, there is no point in not enjoying treats while making the world a better place.

The club, Hoda said, was a collaboration among Joe Gatti and Nevin Siefert, Gulf Coast Academy's directors, and himself. But even though the adults might have put the idea in motion, Hoda said, "It's student driven."

Abigail Hurst, 14, shared the importance of the philanthropy.

"We wanted to help volunteer and raise money for our community," she said, "because it's the right thing to do."

To raise money for the SPCA, Emily Blauers, 13, said, "We sold cookies at a school play and we gave all the money to SPCA."

"We bought the cookies and then wrapped them and sold them for a dollar a package," Hoda said.

"It was at two different school plays," said Rose Leventhal, 13. "One group sold $100 worth of cookies; the other group sold $50."

For another community service project, the students went to Weeki Wachee Springs State Park to help paint the facility's kiosk and remove invasive plants, Natalie Urban, 14, said.

The club, though, is about more than community service. The students meet once a week and conduct their meetings using Robert's Rules. They do not have an executive board yet, so the students take turns acting as secretary and leaders.

The students decide together what projects they will support. They discuss ideas in committees, researching them online. The committees present their ideas, and then the entire group decides.

"We basically just sit around and talk and put them on a piece of paper and vote," said Nathaniel Kinkade, 13.

Hoda is testing the students on how meetings are run with three tests. Students who pass all three with an A receive a parliamentarian award. Students who pass with perfect scores receive a cum laude designation.

"I want them to be exposed to parliamentary procedure," Hoda said, "so they will be able to conduct meetings in high school."

Another of Hoda's objectives is to raise awareness in his students regarding important issues. As an example, he cited the discussion they had about women's history from ancient to modern times.

Alice Barlow summed up how she feels about being a part of Career Associations.

"I really enjoy this club," she said, "because I feel this has opened me up to experiences I usually wouldn't have been interested in."

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