Guts Factor: 7th graders learn to take risks to make a difference (Kelly Kaiser)

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Taking a stand for something you believe in takes guts, and these students have what it takes! Kelly Kaiser’s 7th graders at Jackson Hole Middle School were asked to tackle a problem in the world today and speak out for their Quarter 4 “Combat the Silence” project.

One component of the project asked students to put themselves out there and to take a risk in order to go out into the community and raise awareness for their problem of choice. This was called their “Guts Factor” and these are some of the highlights:


Cate Zolik and Ava Ulmer

Cate Zolik does not run scared. This courageous seventh graderstood outside Albertson’s for four straight hours, informing people about rare diseases that affect countless people around the world. Zolik’s determination was rewarded with a Ms. Kaiser Guts Factor record of $1036.59. She will donate the money to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Diseases. Shout out to Ava Ulmer for helping!

Gillian Bruha loves dogs so much that she spent endless nights preparing for an incredible fundraiser to benefit the Teton County Animal Shelter. She fearlessly contacted (and would also like to thank) Lucky’s for the location, Jackson Signs for bumper stickers that said, “Adopt, Don’t Shop,” WYO Catering for balloons and gift bags, and Jackson Hole Ford (Yeti) for helium and printing costs.

Gillian Bruha and Adam, Teton County Animal Shelter

Bruha baked her treats—both human and dog. Lastly, she stood outside for hours, flashing her stunning smile, and educating passersby on the importance of adoption. Adam, representative of the County Shelter, was amazed with her work on the animals’ behalf.

Jennelly Lopez, Gloria Sanchez, Itzel Garcia.

Gloria Sanchez, Itzel Garcia, and Jennelly Lopez feel passionate about child poverty. They raised $305 for World Vision, spending four hours informing people and asking for donations. Especially remarkable considering these three young ladies say they are extremely shy.

Angie Sanchez, John Hill, Guillermo Sosa, Dania Lopez, Frida Campuzano, Lupita Gurrola, Jhoan Montiel and Brandon Vazquez are alarmed about school safety in light of recent school shootings. Research led them to believe they could take action and make their own school safer by working with the JHMS Student Council.

Brandon Vazquez, Jhoan Montiel, John Hill.

The group baked and sold “goodies” to the whole school and contributed$259.81 to the student council. They met with the 7th grade council members, offering suggestions like partnerships with students who are new to the school, lunch tables where student’s invite excluded or new students to join, and promoting restorative justice practices.

All fairly amazing actions from a group of students who themselves sometimes feel shy.

Physical Feats

Hayden Poduska

Hayden Poduska came into this world 13 weeks early, weighing in at 2 pounds and 10 ounces of awesomeness. To raise awareness for preemie babies, Hayden ventured out to roller-ski 13 miles—one mile for each week he was early. Hayden bravely stopped to talk to 23 people, informing them that the March of Dimes gives the United States a ‘C’ grade for its 9.6% preterm birth rate. Hayden believes, “We really only focus on the baby being born, but we really need to focus on is the mom before she gives birth. This way we can lower preterm birth.”

Phil Meisner and Bode Welch

Bode Welch and Phil Meisner biked 30 miles to raise awareness against teen drug abuse. Bode and Phil believe that the outdoors provide “the kinds of thrills teens should seek out—not drugs.” Facing fierce winds, they gritted their teeth, and pedaled mile after mile, relishing the accomplishment.

Johan Garcia and Carson Harland.

Johan Garcia and Carson Harland believe strongly that immigrants provide a great contribution to the US, and they demonstrated their dedication to this topic by juggling a soccer ball for two hours outside Whole Grocer. Not only did they have many discussions with community members, but one man even joined them in the cause. They raised $100 for Jackson Hole’s One22.

Isaac Larsen, Wyatt Ross, Brian Diaz Morillon, Mack Fairbairn.

Worried teens are too mired in technology? Isaac Larsen, Wyatt Ross, Brian Diaz Morillon, and Mack Fairbairn held a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and an impressive bake sale for some 50 middle school kids. Their goal? To raise awareness about excessive screen time and get kids hooping it up and having fun. Raising $162, they donated to Jackson Hole Youth Basketball and Jackson Hole Youth Soccer.

Noah Pruzan cares very deeply for our veterans. To show his dedication, he turned 50, yes, fifty rolls in his kayak to raise awareness and benefit the Wounded Warriors Project. Bonus: although nausea threatened after the first 20, he downed a Dramamine, and kept on rolling. Literally.

Noah Pruzan

Education: Spreading Awareness

Emma Dillon and Fernanda Costilla.

Let’s talk brave. Emma Dillon and Fernanda Costilla called up the county library and requested a room to present on a very challenging topic: sexual assault. Thirty people, ranging from fellow seventh graders to intrigued adults, eagerly listened their message and joined in on the discussion. The audience even came to an action plan. Instead of waiting until high school, all agreed to teach middle schoolers the concept of consent in 6th grade.

Jordyn Kantor and Olivia Webb.

Jordyn Kantor and Olivia Webb believe that to change the world we have to educate youth. Consequently, they taught three very attentive Colter Elementary classesabout the problem of plastic. One person’s use of plastic bags equates to 22,000 bags over a lifetime.

After informing the classes, Olivia and Jordyn had them decorate canvas reusable bags, and engage in a race to emphasize avoiding plastic bags. But they didn’t stop with kids. Get this, they also fundraised in front of Whole Grocer, earning $350 for ThePlastic Pollution Coalition.

One woman exclaimed: “Can you believe that I haven’t used a single plastic bag or plastic straw for the last 15 years of my life?” That’s what it’s all about!

Thaw Han and Oliver Kimmel.

Thaw Han and Oliver Kimmel are simply unstoppable. First, they went to the Rec Center and talked with anyone they could find about pollution. They even challenged people to basketball or soccer feats with the idea that the winner would either pledge to act for the environment, or they would donate to the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Next up? They met with their neighborhood maintenance expert in the Aspen Meadows neighborhood. They helped him collect all the trash, quantified it, then held a meeting with some 30 neighbors, educating them on trash and pollution and imploring them to reduce their footprint. The following week, they picked up the neighborhood’s trash again, and to their delight, they found significantly less trash.

Joey Selleck

Joey Selleck fasted for an entire day to spread awareness about the fact that 1 in 6 children in the US go hungry. Not only did he fast, but he collected cans around the community to donate toward the Jackson Food Cupboard.

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