Students have 'ideas that matter'

by Sonja J. Keith

Conway High seniors Abby Hill and Emily Bradley have “ideas that matter” to help address needs in their community and beyond.

The Clinton Foundation recently recognized both as winners in the “Ideas Matter” essay contest, with a unique opportunity to meet former president Bill Clinton. Of the 180 submissions, the first and second place finishers — Abby and Emily — are in the same AP Government class taught by Beverly Sutterfield.  The third place finisher, Taylor Stone, is a student at the Arkansas Math and Science School in Hot Springs.

Abby and Emily chose to participate in the essay contest as part of a nine-weeks project in their class. Abby was the first-place finisher and received a $2,500 scholarship in the essay contest, which was open to high school juniors and seniors. Students were challenged to compose a 500-word minimum essay to address one of the areas that the foundation focuses on, from global health and the promotion of health and fitness to protecting the environment.

Abby’s essay addresses childhood hunger and describes how she discovered the need while in middle school. “I saw that some kids ate in the cafeteria every single day for breakfast and lunch,” she wrote. “These children did not want to eat free and reduced meals every single day throughout the school year, but they had to.”

Abby discussed the problem with her mother and developed “Backpacks For Home,” a nonprofit organization through the Conway School District. “Each year we reach out to children within the district who do not have their needs met on the weekend,” Abby wrote. “Backpacks for Home provides a backpack full of food for these children to take home.”

The program is funded by donations and helps around 100 students every year. “Family, friends, community members, Sunday school classes and many other varieties of people donate to make this program possible. People do genuinely care about their community, and with the right programs and planning, help can be provided within each community in order to help provide for children in need.”

Emily, who describes herself as “always being a health nut,” was inspired by her Governor’s School experience to propose mandatory school gardens. She said world hunger became “real” during an activity in the cafeteria at lunch one day to illustrate world hunger where students were randomly assigned cards to indicate full, partial or no servings of food.

According to Emily, school gardens would help address several needs, including increased physical activity and greater awareness about nutrition among students to address obesity and promote health and fitness. She also notes that the gardens would provide fresh produce for school cafeterias, making funds available to assist in other ways.

“School gardens provide students of all ages with an outlet for hands on, interactive learning and lay a foundation of nutritional knowledge that can lead to a lifetime of healthy dietary choices,” Emily wrote in her essay.

In December, Emily and Abby, their parents and teacher were invited to Little Rock to meet President Clinton. “It was pretty exciting,” Abby said. “He was very friendly . . . I felt like he knew me. He’s like a superstar.”

Emily, too, was impressed to meet Clinton. “It was a good night.”

A daughter of Lisa and Greg Hill, Abby plans to attend the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and study business. Emily, a daughter of Renee and Mark Bradley, plans to attend Lipscomb University at Nashville, Tenn. She is considering a major in journalism or dietetics.

Both students are appreciative of Sutterfield and other teachers who have sparked ideas for social change. “I am grateful to all the great Conway High teachers we’ve had,” Emily said.

Abby and Emily are optimistic that the Clinton Foundation will use their ideas to make an impact in other communities. “I’ve always wanted to make a difference in that realm,” Emily said. “This could make a difference at home and around the world.”