Story by Stella Childress, Contributing writer
Not all students around the world have enough pencils, so Murray State students and faculty are doing something to meet that need.
Omicron Delta Kappa (ODK) – a collaborative honors society that focuses on serving the community and includes all academic fields – is hosting a pencil drive. These pencils will be taken to Belize when Murray State students study abroad each year.
Bonnie Higginson, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, and Don Robertson, vice president of Student Affairs, traveled to Belize in 2007 with the College of Education and Human Services and noticed a lack of pencils among the Belizean students.
Higginson said she decided to do something about the need by initiating the drive.
For the last eight years, education students have been passing out the collected pencils on their own study abroad trips to Belize.
Higginson and the members of ODK have collected thousands of pencils, said Lucas Prather, senior from Mahomet, Illinois, and honors society president.
“For some, it is the first time they have had a new pencil.” Robertson said. “Though it seems like a small thing, it can have a very positive impact.”
Prather said he believes that the pencil drive is a great way for Murray State students to get involved outside the “walls” of the campus. This year, he said they have also added colored pencils as a donation option for Belizean students so that not only can they write, but also draw and color.
The pencil drive also benefits students at Murray State by giving them a chance to give back beyond the university community.
“Our students benefit by being able to help others in need and to once again see how fortunate they are with all they have and often take for granted,” Robertson said.
Higginson just came back from a three-week trip to Corozal, Belize, and a group of education students are still there student-teaching. They give the pencils to the district manager of 16 schools, and he distributes them to various villages.
The learning environment in Belize is very different from what the student-teachers are used to. There is no air conditioning and the students do not have the same school supplies. Despite that, the children still attend school with excitement.
“The children are eager to learn,” Higginson said.
Holly Bloodworth is a teacher on leave from Murray Elementary who is conducting literacy workshops for more than 200 teachers in Belize to expand the impact of the work that Murray is having on the community.
She works for the Kentucky Department of Education and has taught for 28 years.
Robertson said in the future, ODK plans to continue doing the pencil drive to benefit Belizean students, and through the years hundreds of students have participated in the drive.
ODK is still accepting donations of regular and colored pencils. You can drop them off at the office of Student Affairs, 425 Wells, until April 30.
Simple pencils can mean a lot to someone, Higginson said.
“It’s an amazing, challenging and powerful experience,” Higginson said.