BCMS Student Spearheads Stuffed Animal Drive to Benefit KY State Police, Post 14

BCMS Student Spearheads Stuffed Animal Drive to Benefit KY State Police, Post 14

Lora Parsons

The Ashland Beacon

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Gracie Justice, Boyd County Middle School 8th grader has a heart for service, a mind that can plan, and a never-quit attitude that our community has recently benefited from.  Justice has only one standard:  excellence, and she applies it to everything she does.  This time, that specifically means our local KY State Police--Post 14 and children in our community will be on the receiving end of what Justice put together. The short explanation of what she did was:  she spearheaded a stuffed animal drive at Boyd County Middle School.  But, the rest of the story illustrates the kind of student her teachers and peers know her to be.


In truth, the goal that Justice is trying to reach at this year’s upcoming KUNA conference in Louisville, began when she entered middle school as a 6th grader and joined the KYA/KUNA programs offered to students.  Sponsored by Melissa Prater, Library Media Specialist, and Dustin Adams, 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Justice was introduced to the world of mock government. KYA (Kentucky Youth Association), held each Fall, and KUNA (KY United Nations Assembly), held each Spring, are both sponsored by the YMCA. These provide students with an opportunity to work together to solve relevant, current, real-world problems collaboratively.  Through KYA, they write and attempt to pass bills into laws at the state level. And, through KUNA, they write resolutions to highlight an international issue from an assigned country (France this year, for BCMS). They present their final research and proposals to the student delegation, mimicking the law-making processes at both the state and international level. While BCMS has had incredible showings at these conferences, even receiving the Premier Delegation distinction in 2021, Prater said, “This year’s goal by Gracie sets the bar even higher as she is the first from our school to run for office. We’re so proud of what she’s trying to accomplish!”  What exactly is that goal of Gracie’s? To not just attend the conference and succeed as a delegation, but to, “Be in control of the whole thing.” Gracie has her sights set on holding one of the three presiding officer positions. Itching for a gavel in her hand, she claimed that she wants to “run the assembly, which includes gaveling people out for things like running out of time during their campaign speeches or for not addressing the Chair appropriately.”

While all students have the option of running for one of these prestigious positions, not all do the required leg-work to pave the way for actually becoming Secretary General, President of the United Nations General Assembly, or President of the Security Council.  At the conference this March, Justice will set up her tri-fold display board so others can get to know her and her platform on day one of the Assembly. She’ll give a campaign speech that evening that sponsors will use to narrow the field of candidates. The tri-fold boards of those who survive that cut will stay on display during day two of the conference, ending in a second speech from candidates. Voting then occurs on day three, choosing who will run the delegation the following year. As nerve-wracking as this may seem, Justice knows that “It’s worth it to reach the goal I’ve got.”  In addition to these requirements that will take place later this year, students wishing to run for office have to make the decision early and prepare ahead of time by organizing and carrying out a community service project.

To that end, Justice began thinking about her campaign platform months ago. She decided on three areas of interest to her: violence against children, gender equality, and quality education. Knowing that her community service project needed to be in alignment with one of these, she and her mom, Nancy Justice, began brainstorming. Gracie’s first thought was a clothing drive for The Neighborhood, but she realized it wasn’t quite on track with the platform she’d created.  In an attempt to tighten up her campaign purpose, she decided she would focus on doing something for children who were facing traumatic moments in their lives. A stuffed animal drive seemed perfect because it was something she and her peers could connect to. To help prepare for the drive, she proposed that Communication Arts students use their graphic design and communication skills to help her advertise. Having done this kind of work last semester when she was in that class, Gracie knew that an assignment of this kind would be perfect for current Communication Arts students. She needed them to write the announcement that would be read each morning and afternoon over the intercom by one of our principals, and she needed a way to advertise to the community through Facebook. Students eagerly got to work creating both of these. They were happy to help a fellow BCMS classmate, but they also knew the cause Gracie had chosen was a worthy one.  Their class work would potentially be used to help our local state police officers have stuffed animals on-hand they could give to small children they encountered in their work.

Trooper Shane Goodall stopped by BCMS to receive the donations and took some time to speak with Gracie and the other KUNA participants who helped gather and bag the stuffed animals that had been collected.  In expressing his gratitude on behalf of Post 14, he shared that enough plushies had been collected to place several in every road unit. He also pointed out they would “not only be used during domestic violence responses, but also traffic accidents, and other situations where smaller children might find themselves anxious, hurt, or scared.” While their exact destination may never be known, he assured students the stuffed animals would be a welcome addition for officers dealing with younger children, and the comfort they provided would be appreciated by the families involved. Taking the opportunity with this captive audience, he also stressed to students that the officers who serve our community are:  “Here for you all. We don’t want you to not like us or to be scared of us. Anything we can do to help you is what we’re here for.”

To say the students and staff at BCMS are proud of Gracie would be an understatement. I have full confidence that if given the opportunity, all 654 students, all BCMS staff, the troopers of KSP--Post 14, and the future children in our community who will benefit from her stuffed animal drive would all checkmark “Gracie Justice” on voting day!  Thank you, Gracie, for being an example to us all of serving others and for going “above and beyond” in everything you put your hands to!

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