By Joel Hall
Every year, about a half a million babies around the world are born prematurely, causing some to die or live with lifelong physical or learning disabilities.
Recently, about 650 teachers and students from Lee Street Elementary in Jonesboro put on their marching shoes to raise money for research aimed at preventing premature births.
On Friday afternoon, from 1-2 p.m., students and teachers conducted the school's first "Walk for Babies." Led by the Clayton County Fire Department, and flanked by members of the Jonesboro Police Department, students marched in a square heading south on Lee Street, east on Smith Street, north on Main Street, west on Spring Street, and turning back onto Lee Street.
Back on school property, students were greeted by the Chick-fil-A cow, the Clayton County Fire Department's fire safety demonstration vehicle, and Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox.
Lee Street Elementary Principal Marcy Perry said the event is an example of "service learning," something she believes helps children become better students and better citizens.
"The more involved they become, the better they become in their school work," said Perry. "It improves academic achievement and responsibility to the community."
The school has been trying to integrate more service-based activities into its curriculum, according to Perry. She said last year, the school raised about $5,000 through charity events, such as "Jump Rope For Heart," and "Pennies for Patients."
Perry hopes this year the school can raise $7,000. She believes the March of Dimes is an appropriate cause to champion, because of the relationship between premature birth and academic performance.
"Babies who are born prematurely often have academic difficulties, so it affects us directly," said Perry.
Mary Astin, an ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) teacher and event organizer, said Friday's event raised about $500 for the March of Dimes.
"Clayton County Public Schools last year was the largest contributor to the March of Dimes in the South Metro area," said Astin. "We are trying to stay the champions."
Astin said the students felt a sense of pride participating in an event which helps those less fortunate.
"They were really proud and excited about the fact that they were doing something good," said Astin. "A lot of them have brothers and sisters who are preemies and some of them are preemies themselves. They feel connected."