Yesterday, we told you about a program called “Power of One,” created by 7th grade Middlebrook teacher Cindy Beck-Moore and implemented by the school’s 7-Green teachers. “Power of One” is a year-long unit teaching students that they can actually make a difference in the world, even at the young age of 12 or 13.

Today, in Part 2 of the series, we look at how one Wilton 7th grader took that concept and really will change the world.

Ahh, Fairfield County teens. You know the type–obsessed with being on their phones, keeping up with what their friends are doing on Instagram, and playing sports when they’re not demanding their materialistic needs be met.

Think again.

Meet Patrick Cummins, one of about 120 kids in Middlebrook’s 7th grade on the 7-Green team. He’s but one teen who is taking the lesson taught in the team’s “Power of One” year-long program and really making a difference.

“We pick a topic that we’re passionate about and make an organization to see how we can change the world,” Patrick explains.

It’s such a simple idea, and yet it works.

Starting at the beginning of the year, the students learn about individuals in history who have made a difference. The teachers then ask the kids to look for role models who help others closer to home–their parents, coaches, aunts and uncles, siblings. From that, the students are encouraged to choose a topic to research and then share with their classmates, recruiting support from the other 7th graders to execute their project. The final phase is when the students figure out how complete an action.

“To do something, even if it’s making posters or writing an editorial–or in Pat’s case, creating a whole Stop Hunger Now campaign here at Middlebrook,” says teacher Cindy Beck-Moore, who created the program eight years ago.

Patrick’s plan is to host a meal packaging event with Stop Hunger Now, a non-profit, international hunger-relief organization that coordinates the distribution of food and other aid to crisis areas across the globe. One part of their efforts includes coordinating with corporate, community, church and student volunteer groups to create meal packaging events.

Patrick was inspired by the annual Stop Hunger Now event held by the Wilton Interfaith Action Committee (WI-ACT), something he does every year with his family, which is active in helping organize the event.

“It feels good to do that for other people and it’s a lot of fun, because it’s not just about packaging the meals–there’s music, we have tons of fun with the people who volunteer and run it. You can take part with friends, and it just feels really good to help all those people who don’t have enough food,” he says.

To organize the Middlebrook event, Patrick is getting assistance from a core group of 7th grade friends, including Vignesh Subramanian, Rohit Singhal, Tess Nobles and Michael Zizzadoro. Michael knows that it’s something their classmates will get excited about.

“I think they’ll hop onto it–a lot of people have already said they want to do this event,” Michael said.

The kids are almost completely running the show. “I started to ask Patrick how he was going to do it, and he said, with total confidence, ‘Don’t worry, I’ve got this,’” recalls Beck-Moore.

With a little assistance from his dad, who is on the WI-ACT board, and the teachers who have secured the dates for the events, Patrick and his teen crew are doing the work to put it all together. They’ve built a website where people can donate directly; they’ve organized bake sales; they’re writing the plan and they’re recruiting their classmates. Patrick has also recorded videos which his parents have posted on social media to spread the word.

Their success has been phenomenal in just the first few weeks of getting the fundraising off the ground. They’ve already raised $1,775.

But they still have about $4,100 that they still need to raise.

“It covers the cost of all the materials used–the rice, the vegetables, the vitamins–and then you package them. The smallest amount of meals we can package is 10,000 so we’re trying to raise enough to package 20,000 meals,” Patrick explains.

“That will feed 54 children for an entire year,” Michael adds.

“Plus the meals go to the school, so that the kids have to go to school and learn in order to get the meals. So basically they’re getting education and food,” Patrick explains.

It’s amazing when you think of that stereotype Fairfield County teen, and instead you find amazing Wilton kids explaining high-concept plans to help feed and educate kids around the world.

They have found that while not all of their classmates and friends listen when they’ve talked about it, they’re reaching enough of the ones who do.

“Some of our friends will listen when we talk about it. But when they do pay attention, it’s larger than life in a way–it’s saving a life,” Patrick says.  “You have a chance to change someone’s life and impact someone in a way that’s amazing.”

These students have been motivated by some very dedicated teachers who have imparted much larger lessons than what’s prescribed by Common Core standards. It’s clear that these kids have taken the lessons laid down by the “Power of One” project to heart, and they understand that their actions can have a life-changing effect.

“No matter how big or small it is, you’re impacting their life,” Michael adds.

What they may soon also see is how their actions can inspire others in a larger ripple effect. “This 7th grade Green Team meal-packaging will be the first done by any middle school for Stop Hunger Now. This ‘Power of One’ project opens for that outstanding nonprofit a whole new vista of meal-packaging entities and individuals and so can really set an amazing example far beyond Wilton itself,” says Steve Hudspeth, one of the WI-ACT organizers.

There are several ways supporters can contribute to help Patrick and his team raise the money:

  • Donate directly through the website Patrick built himself
  • Stop by the bake sale the group will hold on Sunday, April 19, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Village Market
  • Come to a Benefit Concert at St. Matthews Church (36 New Canaan Rd.) on Sunday, April 26, 4-5 p.m.. It’s  being organized by Middlebrook music teacher Janet Nobles. Among the performers will be students from the Middlebrook music and chorus program, the Middlemen singers, and other community members. Money raised at the concert will benefit WI-ACT, which will split the proceeds between the annual all-community “Stop Hunger Now” event in October and the 7-Green event.

While the meal packaging event itself is something that only 7-green students will take part in on May 14, Patrick calls it a “kickstarter year,” and he hopes that it eventually will become a school-wide event in which all Middlebrook students can get involved.

The amazing thing is that out of all the high-level topics the kids say their classmates have considered getting involved with–“It ranges from violence in soccer matches to unstable governments, women’s rights and inequality in education to child immunization,” Patrick explains–they get to see that they can really make a difference, even when things seem so much larger than life. In their own way, they figure out how to change the world.