Project S.M.I.L.E.

December 5, 2013

Students in Dr. Deitra Kuester’s course, ETE 445 Educational Collaboration Efforts, participated in a special initiative, Project S.M.I.L.E (Students Making an Impact and Leading Education). The purpose of this project is to allow preservice teachers to apply what they are learning throughout the semester toward a real world project with specific goals of making an impact and giving back to the community. The students begin with seed money provided by Dr. Kuester and her husband, Eric, with very few guidelines and a target recipient. This year the focus was on providing sensory manipulatives and/or equipment for the newly formed Academy for Autism at the Children's Home in Peoria.

“Each year, I'm amazed at the enthusiasm and commitment exhibited by our teacher candidates," Kuester said. "They continually exceed any expectations by going above and beyond the goals of the project in terms of real world applied collaboration and leadership. This year was certainly no exception. This year's team was off-the-charts! They decided to have two events to raise money and awareness for autism and the Academy. This dynamic team not only chose to have two events, but they chose to do the unthinkable and decided to have an event during finals week! Yes, that's right — during finals week with Munchies in Westlake.” 

The first event was an on campus bake sale in the fall. At this event the students raised almost $200. At Munchies in Westlake, the group raised another $285.30.

On December 18, Kelly Bisping, graduating senior, and teacher-leader Kayla Darby along with Dr. Kuester presented Academy teachers Lindsey Cox and April Emery each with checks for $220 to purchase sensory manipulatives and/or equipment for their classrooms. In addition, a portion of the proceeds was used to buy each of them a CD player, headphones and a children's CD to aid sensory stimulation through the use of music.