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Students lobby for sidewalks near Seven Springs Middle School in Trinity — and get them

TRINITY

Eighth-grader Connor Murchie sees it all too often.

Kids walk in the grass along Little Road near Seven Springs Middle School, trying to stay away from traffic as it speeds by.

"It's crazy," said Liberty Sales, Connor's classmate. "Cars pull up there all the time."

"It worries me to see them walking out there," added Erica Disbrow, another student in the school's Lead the Pack class.

So it's no exaggeration to say the kids in the leadership class are thrilled that their lobbying to get a sidewalk installed along the busy roadway has received the thumbs up from the Florida Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to start in the fall.

"It feels great," Connor said. "All last year we worked to get this done. . . . To see it get done early is awesome. I'm really grateful."

The path will run along the west side of Little Road, from State Road 54 to about 500 feet south of Trinity Boulevard on Robert Trent Jones Parkway, as well as on the south side of Mitchell Ranch Road from Little Road to Trinity Oaks Boulevard.

The cost of the project is estimated at $590,000.

That, too, astounded the students.

"That sidewalk is more than my entire house," said eighth-grader David Kreuser.

"Cars aren't $500,000, are they?" Erica wondered.

"I think it's amazing that they came in and convinced them to spend half a million dollars on a sidewalk," said seventh-grader Demetri Dellis. "I really never suggested anybody spend a lot of money on anything."

The best part for these 24 students was that their initiative would benefit their community, and not just themselves.

"I really like giving back to the community," said seventh-grader Kiana Mohr. "That's one thing my parents put me on when I was little."

That's been the focus of Lead the Pack since its inception three years ago.

Teacher Cindy Tehan had led Learn and Serve projects, mostly in the form of plays focused on such messages as "stop bullying" and "don't do drugs." The funding threatened to dry up unless the school expanded its effort.

A student survey revealed that 80 percent wanted to help others, but only 20 percent felt they were making a difference in the community.

The Lead the Pack youth council class was born.

Since then, the class has persuaded government to put up signs to protect sand hill cranes. It has raised money for charities. And it has given students the opportunity to learn the nuts and bolts of community service.

This year, that has included writing and evaluating mini grants for school and civic projects aimed at helping others. The group has controlled $12,299 going to 15 projects the students deemed worthy.

The big class project, still in the planning stages, will deal with protecting the Florida panther.

State Sen. Mike Fasano, who has helped the class with several of its projects, praised the students and their teacher for their dedication.

"I am absolutely impressed," Fasano said. The students' successes "should also tell everyone something: If you have a good idea, don't keep it to yourself. ... It can happen."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

fast facts

Want to help another group of students?chip in?

The St. Anthony Choristers will hold a yard sale Saturday at the church, 32832 Saint Anthony Way in San Antonio. Proceeds will go toward the choir's travel expenses for itstheir winter trip to sing at the Vatican. For information or to help another way, call choir director Sandra Lau at (352) 568-3081.

Students lobby for sidewalks near Seven Springs Middle School in Trinity — and get them 02/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 11:35pm]
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