MEA Sends Some Care

June 14, 2020 | Education | Jeni Schmidt

Transitioning from their Bozeman, Montana, classrooms to online learning has been challenging for Mount Ellis Academy’s students. Participating in Zoom classes and working in a virtual Google classroom was a huge leap from school in real time. This new normal has been further complicated by the impact of being cut off from peers and teachers.

The teachers have been feeling the loss as well. While students and staff are connecting through social media and texting, it just isn’t the same. Nick Lawrence, MEA’s taskforce chaplain, began searching for ways for students and teachers to connect. One of those ways was care packages.

When asked why he settled on the idea of care packages, Lawrence fondly thought of the packages Union College has been sending to him all year. “I wanted the students to receive some joy, something to make them smile, so I thought of things that made me smile,” he explains. It takes a lot of time to put together a care package, but as Lawrence says, "the effort and idea shows a lot of meaning and that is what I wanted to convey to the students: We care.”

A lot of thinking went into the content of the care packages. The first item was an MEA T-shirt. Designed by Liesel Rogers, the T-shirts sport the new MEA logo and highlight the “Enthusiast” campaign. And of course they are showing off MEA colors. The package was sweetened with candy — Lawrence was able to track down everyone's favorite candy. But the crowning glory was the letters. Lawrence was able to get the faculty and staff to write letters — real letters, something rarely received in this digital age.

Lawrence explained his thinking: “The notes from the staff members were a crucial part of the care packages. I wanted the students to see how much the staff members really care and love the students who attend MEA. I chose letters because they are a powerful way to communicate. They have become so rare that receiving a letter is something special. Letters also take time. You must sit down and actually write out the message you want to say. This does not happen quickly like a text message or email, letters carry weight. I felt that these letters would motivate our students to finish this school year strong, but most importantly, bring them joy.”

Many hands contributed to the construction of the boxes. Ashley Beardsley helped assemble and pack the boxes. Leisel Rogers sorted and folded the shirts. Larissa Harris helped put the letters into the corresponding packages. She also helped ship out-of-town packages and deliver packages to the students who live in the area, with help from Carmen Mathis. Angela Binder helped with the care packages for students who attend the Bozeman Church.

According to Lawrence, the best part of the whole idea was delivering the packages to the students. “Most of the students were surprised," he says. "They had no clue that we were visiting them or giving them a care package. Their shock then turned into joy as they realized they were getting a package from us. Some students told us later that they really enjoyed their care package and it made their day.”

In the end, it seems that the delight of the care packages impacted both the givers and recipients. "It's the small things in life that make the biggest impact," Lawrence shares. "A little bit of joy can go a long way.”