A story of giving by Denise Juneau

Dec. 22, 2011
 

"My grandfather came back with pairs of shoes for her and her brother so they could attend school. Today, that woman is a teacher, and she is helping her students understand the importance of giving so others can succeed."

 

This guest column by MEA-MFT member DENISE JUNEAU appeared in the Missoulian and other Montana newspapers.

 

Thanks for Denise for sharing this moving story about her grandfather and the folks at Riverside Middle School in Billoings.

 

Thanks to the staff and students at Riverside and around Montana who selflessly give to others.

 

Thanks to the firefighters, police, food bank volunteers, veterans, and others whom Riverside students helped.

 

Thanks to all public employees in Montana who do work that matters for Montana's people.

 

Thank you -- and Happy Holidays!


Giving back is a gift in itself
 

By Denise Juneau

 

I recently visited Riverside Middle School in Billings where the school's theme for the holidays is, "Everyone is a giver." Principal Sharon Tietema told me that when her students experience giving to others in their community, it leaves a lasting and powerful impression.

 

On Cougar Kindness Day, students, staff and volunteers from Riverside Middle School visit senior centers, make gifts for veterans and cookies for the police and fire departments, volunteer at the food bank and shovel sidewalks for community members. Students also read to and make cookies and crafts with local elementary students. These acts of kindness are impressive and illustrative of the school's genuine support of their students and the Billings community.

 

I can't think of a better theme for the holidays. The spirit of community is one of the things I love most about Montana. There are examples of giving everywhere I look across the state.

 

My family instilled in me the importance of giving back, looking out for those less fortunate and striving to ensure opportunity for all. A woman once told me that my grandfather had played a significant role in her life. He was a truancy officer and had to check on her and her brother when they were missing school.

 

When he went to her house, he discovered that they weren't attending because they didn't have shoes to wear and could not afford to buy any. She explained that my grandfather came back with pairs of shoes for her and her brother so they could attend school.

 

Today, that woman is a teacher, and she is helping her students understand the importance of giving so others can succeed.

 

Supporting kids, in whatever way you can, can have a profound impact on their future. There are many ways to ensure the basic needs of kids are met in your community including supporting your local food bank or donating a warm winter coat.

 

In fact, there are many ways to be a giver year-round. Volunteering your time in a classroom, supporting your local education foundation, running for school board, joining the PTA, mentoring a young person or starting an internship program in your office are great ways to support schools and your community and make a difference in the lives of young people.

 

A quality public education requires all of us to be givers of time, energy, ideas, donations and talents. Schools are the heart of Montana communities and deserve all that we can give. Helping our young people to become educated is a gift that supports individuals, communities, our state and our country.

 

Denise Juneau is the Montana state superintendent of public instruction.

 

 

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