Skip to main content

Cottonwood Heights Journal

Butler Middle students fill sandbags to prepare for potential flooding

Jun 02, 2023 09:33AM ● By Julie Slama

Butler Middle eighth-grader Ryan Davis and other National Junior Honor Society chapter members helped fill Cottonwood Heights sandbags. (Anna McNamer/Butler Middle)

To prepare for potential flooding from a record snowmelt this spring, and with water quickly rising, Cottonwood Heights invited community groups to fill sandbags at the public works yard for residents who couldn’t fill their own.

That’s when seventh- and eighth-grade students in Butler Middle School National Junior Honor Society decided to act.

“As we were brainstorming a service project that our whole group could do, the city council was sending out all emails about filling sandbags, so we’re like, ‘Sweet, let's all meet up after school and fill as many sandbags as we can,’” said Anna McNamer, Butler Middle co-NJHS adviser along with Amy Giles, Katherine Cance and Kadyn Woolstenhulme.  

Not having filled sandbags before, the students were excited and eager.

“I came to do this with an open mind. I wasn't sure what it would look like, but these kids were serious about getting as many done as they could in the four hours we were there. I repeatedly told them that it would be OK to take a break, get water and there's no need to go full speed and have sore muscles. But a couple of students said we only have one speed, and we need to help,” she said.

Fifteen of the 25 student chapter members came prepared to fill sandbags April 12.

“We were the first group there, so some public works officers showed us how to set up the sandbags, fill them, load them on pallets or even into cars. People came and left, and our kids helped others, showed them what to do. By helping fill these sandbags in a time of need, it really gave our students the opportunity to show how to be leaders in their community,” she said.

There was a sense of gratification in helping their community, she said.

“A lot of people took notice and appreciated what our students were doing. They continue to amaze me. If you're ever feeling like the world is not as good as it used to be, you just come hang out with NJHS kids and they'll blow your mind. They're just phenomenal human beings,” she said. “But I don't think we really realized how sore we were going to be or how much sand there was. And it was super windy so there was sand in our hair for days and we were sore for a long time. But they said it definitely was worth it.”

The students were recognized for their hard work at their school and community through photographs, social media posts and school announcements.

For McNamer, one of the highlights was seeing her students take the initiative.

“The best thing was just really seeing their plans turn into action. In the weeks leading up to it, they identified the time that would work best for everyone. Then, they made sure everyone had water and coordinated so everyone had shovels and gloves. This is really a grassroots effort and organization. One of the things they’ll take away this year, is knowing they can accomplish amazing things when they get organized. That skill alone is big; it's incredibly difficult for middle schoolers to take from an idea and put it into an action so for this group of kids to move ideas into action is remarkable.”

Students are invited to join National Junior Honor Society based on their academic merit, service, character, leadership and citizenship. 

At Butler, they apply to become members with teacher recommendations, but also have “a commitment to wanting to be community leaders and service our community.” Twenty hours of community service is part of the commitment, although McNamer said many exceed that requirement.

“As a National Junior Honor Society, we're responsible at our school for monitoring the recycling and we do a few group projects every year, like sandbags. They also collected hats and gloves and scarves for The Road Home this winter,” she said. “A lot of students do individual community service projects.”

These have ranged from playing musical instruments at a senior care facility to breeding and selling crayfish, then donating money from the sales, she said. λ