Guts Factor shoutouts from Kelly Kaiser’s phenomenal 7th Graders

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

Action & Education: Spreading Awareness

Alexandra Gingery and Angel Rooks Orton

Let’s talk brave: Angel Rooks Orton, Alexandra Gingery, and Andrew Hanna found the courage to call up Mr. Darrell Siggers, an incredible man who overcame 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Exonerated just eight months ago, Siggers gave the kids a powerful video interview from his home in Detroit.

But these lions for kids did not stop there; they invited Siggers to Jackson, taking him up the tram, around Yellowstone, and back into town for lunch at the Wort. Next, Siggers and the kids got to work, hosting talks in front of 300 middle and high schoolers and yet another audience at the Teton County Library.

Siggers’ message? In Angel’s words, “Things will happen in life that aren’t fair. You can’t waste life being bitter and resentful. Use all opportunities and any experiences to become better. He used prison to make him ‘better not bitter.’”

Andrew Hanna, Bill Branham, Darrell Siggers, Angel Rooks Orton, Alexandra Gingery


Petra Cernicek and June Darin

Petra Cernicek and June Darin have made it their mission to start a composting program at Jackson Hole Middle school. While many kids are nervous just to talk to a single teacher or coach, these girls contacted and interviewed ten different JH community members to get the job done.

Next, they executed a food audit at JHMS. Lest you think that’s simple, I’d like you to picture 700 teenagers who just want to chuck their tator tots and carrots in the garbage and head outside for recess. But Petra and June were a formidable duo, making signs and daily announcements, talking to Principal Hoelscher, and finally, standing guard over three garbage cans, sorting waste into liquids, food compost, and straight up trash.

Their findings? JHMS produces 46 pounds and 16 gallons of food waste a day. Next step, they are off to write a grant in order to procure funding to start their program, and they will do a trial composting week to get ready for next year. Fist bump!


Malaya Maligalig, Lucy Dillon, and Lexi Higgins have Teton-sized hearts. As confident, intelligent teenagers they recognize their unique ability to enlighten others about negative peer pressure.

Malaya Maligalig and Lucy Dillon.

First, they taught Mrs. Rooks’ sixth grade class at JHMS. Utterly impressed, Mrs. Rooks commented, “The girls opened my 6th graders’ eyes to peer pressure. Had they stopped there, it would have been worthwhile, but they went further, giving them great tips to facing peer pressure. They were not only mature but they were kind. They answered questions openly and honestly. Kids left feeling empowered!”

Next, they gave an informative talk to community members (aka adults!) at the Teton County Library. One member of the audience was so impressed she invited the girls to speak at Kelly Elementary School. Yet another attendee would like to take their video work back with her to Boston, and another supporter said, “This really opened my eyes to the harsh reality of what’s happening to our young people.”



Mia Brazil and Ava Tozzi

Ava Tozzi and Mia Brazil do not run scared. These courageous seventh graders created a raffle, bravely walking into local JH stores to ask if the owners would consider donating a prize (shoutout to Stio, Paper & Grace, Whole Grocer, Pearl St. Bagels, and Healthy Bean Juicery).

Prizes subsequently garnered, the girls thenstood outside Whole Grocer’s for hours, informing people about the tragedy that is human trafficking and selling countless raffle tickets. Raising a Combat Guts Factor project record of $1,044, they will donate the money to the nonprofit Stolen Youth, an organization that supports victims of human trafficking.


Leela Rogers and Edie May

Leela Rogers and Edie May epitomize courage and determination. Appalled by the issue of sexual assault, these girls decided they had to raise money for the Community Safety Network to combat the problem. The girls both hit the pavement, asking many local businesses to donate to their raffle (thank you to Hole Bowl, Diva Nails, Teton Mountaineering, Persephone, Workshop, Haagen Dazs, and Pearl St. Bagels).

Not only did these girls spend hours selling raffle tickets at Whole Grocer, but they canvassed the state soccer tournament looking for compassionate folks to buy tickets. And their efforts paid off; Community Safety Network will now have $592 from these two seventh graders to help their worthy cause.


Physical Feats

Alyosha Billimoria and Noah Parazette

Alyosha Billimoria and Noah Parazetteshould give us tremendous hope. With a passion for the outdoors, they have stepped up to do their part to raise awareness to combat climate change. Sporting their killer smiles, the boys traveled door to door, informing their neighbors of climate change’s disastrous effects and asking for pledges to hike laps on Snow King.

Wait, laps?! One lap is pretty darn stellar, but these kids completed three in one day. Skirting snow and taking on rain, Noah and Alyosha raised $535 for the organization Protect Our Winters.


Cadel Carrigan and the You, Go Girls club

Cadel Carrigan is one of those strange human beings who likes to fling herself down mountains. An avid snowboarder and mountain biker, Cadel wants every girl to feel the power that comes with fitness and adventure. Calling up super-athlete Hillary Pfiel, Cadel invited Hillary to JHMS to help her run a crossfit class for the amazing kids of the You Go, Girls running club.

And we’re not talking some afternoon stroll down the bike path—how about buckets of sweat and thighs burning like brakes on Teton Pass. Best of all? The feeling the elation that comes from achievement. You go, girls.


Tosh Bessette
Layton Macleod

Layton MacLeod and Tosh Bessette love Jackson Hole so much that they spent nearly 3 hours picking up trash, making this community shine.

Donning their raincoats, rubber gloves, and some hefty resilience, they walked the grass between Rafter J and Highway 89, picking up 25 pounds of trash, including water bottles, plastic bags, irrigation flags, and a three pound plastic coil bag.

Good work!



Kaiya Saito is simply unstoppable. Using her art to speak out against religious discrimination, Kaiya spent hours and hours planning, drafting, and perfecting her artistic representation of the need for religious freedom. Meanwhile, the amazing Mrs. Parrott has been teaching her sixth grade classes about the major religions of the world.

Are you thinking what we’re thinking? Yes, Kaiya will guest-teach Mrs. Parrott’s 6th grade History class this week, showcasing her artwork and stimulating critical thinking around a topic many of us take for granted.

“In this piece, the left side depicts some major views towards religious groups, like things that have happened and how people view the religious group afterwards. On the right, the art depicts how religious individuals actually behave, as well as coping with suffering,” Kaiya says.

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