November Community Award: Warsaw Community Schools

Every day, members of our communities rise to meet unexpected challenges. From children to parents and from caregivers to businesses, we have all been asked to step up and become leaders. We’ve faced and pivoted to adapt and grow through our everchanging world due to unforeseen events that affect our daily lives. No action is too small, and together our impact is large.

Your actions should be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are the foundation of our society, and we stand stronger together. PLTW is proud to celebrate diverse communities and its members who exhibit collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship in service across the nation. As a result, we have created the PLTW Community Celebration Awards to recognize communities that have come together to care for each other in times of need. Join us in celebrating the following community this month!

Warsaw Community Schools – a district in northern Indiana serving approximately 7,000 students from the communities of Warsaw, Winona Lake, Claypool, and Leesburg – truly embodies the spirit of PLTW’s Community Awards. The community received multiple nominations that highlight the efforts of students, school staff, and the community.

Students Making an Impact

Warsaw Community Schools’ students actively made a difference for their community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Examples include:

  • Warsaw Area Career Center’s local Gone Boarding program organized a fundraiser that raised over $800 for the community. To support the fundraiser, community members could purchase a t-shirt from the Gone Boarding club or purchase a special pair of Vans shoes as part of a Vans/Gone Boarding partnership. The students used proceeds from the fundraiser to purchase gift cards for families affected by the shutdown during the pandemic.
  • Many students, including eighth grade student Talia Kelley, supported the community by making cloth masks. With the help of her mother and grandmother, Talia completed 20 cloth masks in less than 24 hours that she donated to her school’s cafeteria workers. “I thought that the masks would help the lunch ladies continue their service to help all the students whose families need lunches,” she said. “I hope that having the masks keeps everyone in the food services healthy.”
  • While many people took precautions to protect themselves during quarantine, eight Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) students from Warsaw Area Career Center prepared to help fight on the front lines. After completing 185 classroom hours learning to care for the sick and injured, these incredible students passed their psychomotor exam to become EMTs in May.

Teachers Making an Impact

Teachers across the district stepped up to set an example for their students during the pandemic. Examples include:

  • Like their students, many staff members from the district made masks for those in the community, including Warsaw Area Career Center instructor Sandy Carmichael. Sandy made masks for a United Way of Kosciusko County drive benefiting hospitals and nursing homes, and she called on others to join her. “When our country faces unique challenges, it is up to us as citizens to follow requests from government officials and offer the gifts God has given us,” she said. “I love to sew and making masks is one small way I can help during this COVID-19 crisis.” Sandy was inspired by her mother who enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corp during World War II.
  • While school was closed to students during the quarantine in the spring, Warsaw Community Schools implemented a “nurse on-call” program. Families could call the high school or central office to speak with a school nurse about medical questions regarding their students.
  • Madison Elementary Principal Ben Barkey and members of his school’s staff created a GoFundMe campaign called “Feed 3.” The team used money raised from the campaign to buy $40 gift cards to local restaurants. Students from the school wrote a letter of encouragement to local nurses, and the gift cards and letters were delivered to the nurses. The initiative helped “feed the minds” of students, supported local restaurants during the shutdown, and helped feed the families of nurses working on the front lines. “As educators, no matter the circumstances, we want to impact our students’ lives through real-world learning experiences,” Ben said. “As community members, no matter the circumstances, we want to support our local businesses who have worked hard to make our city a better place. As people, no matter the circumstances, we want to lift up our heroes who make personal sacrifices to help those in need.”
  • With COVID-19 cancelling spring break plans, the Warsaw Community Schools’ STEM Coaches organized a fun STEM Challenge “Stay-cation” for students during spring break 2020. In an effort to “make Warsaw the cool place to be,” students had a chance to create their own amusement park – including roller coasters and arcade games. Students went to the website each day to see what new thing their park needed.

Community Making an Impact

The greater community rallied around Warsaw Community Schools’ educators, students, and families to support them during the crisis. From the local Walmart donating sunglasses to all members of the Warsaw Community High School senior class of 2020 to a partnership with local restaurants that provided free meals every day to children under 18 years old.

Warsaw Community Schools and other organizations secured funding to meet the needs of families, including assistance to access and pay for food, transportation, rent, and utility bills. Several foundations in Kosciusko County, including the K21 Health Foundation, Kosciusko County Community Foundation, United Way of Kosciusko County, and Zimmer Biomet Foundation, developed grant opportunities geared towards COVID-19 recovery initiatives, supporting charitable organizations and food pantries that serve residents of Kosciusko County. Many organizations helped Warsaw Community Schools prepare for a great start to the 2020-21 school year while protecting the safety of staff and students. One particular donation for 1,500 handmade masks went to the transportation department, school buildings, and classrooms. These masks were gifted by a group called Pincushion Pals. Other groups that donated PPE included United Way of Kosciusko County and DePuy Synthes.