By Greg Gelpi
It's their school and they're taking it upon themselves to make it safe.
Students in Babb Middle School's Family, Career and Community Leaders America Club have identified problems in their schools and community, including school violence, and designed and presented programs to younger students to address these problems.
"It's because there's so much violence in our schools, and we want to prevent it," seventh-grader Jenny Pham, 13, says.
From raps to puppet shows, classmate Alejandra Davila, 12, says that the club is taking on gangs and violence by sharing advice as peers to these students.
Teachers and schools preach similar messages, but students are more receptive to hearing from fellow students, Davila says.
Avon Thapvongsa, 14, agrees, adding that she listens to her teachers, but the messages just don't stick with her as long as those messages she gets from her friends and classmates.
Along with talking with students at Babb and other county schools, the students bought a lock box that they placed in the school for students to report anonymous tips to boost school safety, Tiet Hoang, 14, says.
Students said that they're "proud" of the steps they've taken to make their community a better place.
The club also conducted a series of service projects during the year, including raising funds for the Asian tsunami relief effort and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House.
Spreading the messages and successes beyond the county and around the state, Aimee Ward, 12, will be speaking to her fellow middle school students as she serves in her newly elected position on the state Student Executive Council.
Lillian Mitchell, a Babb family and consumer sciences teacher, who sponsors the club, said that the students become part of the projects they take on, "investing" a great deal of time into the club and the issues. Mitchell adds that the children's success comes from their excitement.
For their work, five of the Babb Middle's teams earned gold medals at the state competition, and two of the teams scored well enough to advance to the national competition in San Diego, representing the state.
Members of the Chapter Service Project team are Ashley Brown, Awonda Luangphasombath and Samerra Yusuf.
The Interpersonal Communication team consists of Geneley Childress, Rosetta Norman and Nakeisha Person.
On the Parliamentary Procedures team are Chelsea Bivins, Kim Dang, Leticia Davila, Davianna Holland, Natika Lovett, Dung Nguyen and Priya Patel.
The Illustrated Talk team is Alejandra Davila, Duy-Tan Tran and Pham.
Hoang and Thapvongsa are on the National Program in Action team.
The Chapter Service Project and Interpersonal Communication teams are the teams that will compete nationally.
The club, the first of its kind for Clayton County middle schools, is in its second year.