Published on June 1st, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


District Five students, teacher named winners of national service learning competition

CrossRoads Middle School students Corbyn Player, Carson Ellis and McKenzie Smith and their teacher Dr. Christopher Craft were named grand prize winners of the 2015 Belk Service Learning Challenge, a national contest recognizing top student service learning projects.

IRMO – A Lexington-Richland School District Five middle school teacher and three of his students have been named grand prize winners of a national contest recognizing top service learning projects that impact the community.

Belk, Discovery Education and International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) announced May 28 that CrossRoads Middle School teacher Dr. Christopher Craft and sixth grade students Carson Ellis, Corbyn Player and McKenzie Smith are grand prize winners of the 2015 Belk Service Learning Challenge. For their winning project, team “Prosthetic Kids” used 3-D printers to create prosthetic hands for children in need. Craft and the three students were presented with an $8,000 check during a surprise announcement at the school.

“We were very excited,” Player said. “We didn’t think we would win…So when they told us we did, we were just really happy and surprised.”

Ellis added, “It’s very exciting. I think we were just happy that we get to help people… winning the challenge is very much icing on the cake.”

The Belk Service Learning Challenge asks middle school students to work in teams of up to four classmates with the guidance of a teacher or mentor to identify issues in local communities and design an action plan to implement a solution. The annual contest is based on research that shows students who participate in service learning initiatives demonstrate improved problem-solving skills and interest in academics, officials said.

Only three teams nationwide have been named grand prize winners this year, and each student and their teacher receive an individual $2,000 prize. Belk also granted CrossRoads Middle an additional $5,000 to cover the purchase of additional 3-D printers.

“The Belk Service Learning Challenge empowers students to take hands-on interactive approaches to solving important issues that have a great impact in their community,” said District Five Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hefner. “The Challenge builds students’ everyday critical thinking, communications and problem-solving skills through an exciting opportunity outside their normal routine and allows them to understand that they can make a remarkable difference in this world.”

Recognizing a need for prosthetic hands, team “Prosthetic Kids” researched ways to become involved and found the organization Enabling The Future, which connects those in need of prosthetic hands with individuals who have access to 3-D printers. Using a 3-D printer the school acquired through a grant, Craft and his students printed a prosthetic hand for a middle school girl in the Charleston area last fall. Since then, Craft and the three students have printed more prosthetic hands and planned a May 29 “Hand-A-Thon,” where students in the school would assemble more than 20 prosthetic hands.

“It was awe-inspiring to see them receive the award and be recognized,” said Craft, who teaches an Introduction to STEM course at CrossRoads Middle. “…All I did was approach them and presented them with the opportunity and the idea, and they took it and ran. They’ve really driven this, they’ve driven me, (and) they’ve driven my learning as well as their own. It’s been amazing to watch their process and above all to see their hearts in all of this for other people.”

Smith added, “It made us feel really good that we were helping someone else in our community that didn’t have something they really needed… We’re planning to do more.”

The Belk Service Learning Challenge was open to students across the country residing in one of the 16 states where Belk has a presence, including: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Community involvement is one of our core values at Belk, and we are honored to see young students participate in the Challenge by taking actions to strengthen their communities,” said Jessica Graham, Belk’s vice president of communications and community relations. “We hope that these students will continue to give back, and maintain a sense of commitment to service and their communities.”

Providing student teams a second layer of support, anchors the challenge and equips middle school classrooms with free, standards-based service-learning curriculum, including lesson plans and multimedia tools that reinforce the importance of social responsibility and volunteerism to societies and economies.

“ISTE is proud to honor these amazing middle school students for their creative and impactful service-learning projects that will make tremendous changes in their communities,” said Craig Thibaudeau, Chief External Relations Officer of ISTE. “Through the Challenge, students become more engaged in their learning, and build valuable critical thinking and collaboration skills, which will ultimately make the world a better place for all of us.”

“Discovery Education is proud to partner with Belk and ISTE to provide students this powerful service learning initiative,” said Lori McFarling, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Discovery Education. “Education is much more than what is taught within the walls of a classroom. Some of the best learning opportunities for students are those that encourage them to connect classroom concepts to aspects of their everyday lives.”


For more information on the Belk Service Learning Challenge and to see a complete list of winners, please visit

About CrossRoads Middle

Lexington-Richland School District Five’s CrossRoads Middle School serves sixth grade students from 10 of the district’s 12 elementary schools and specializes in the transition from elementary to the secondary learning environment. The school has received an “Excellent” absolute rating and “Excellent” growth rating on the state report card for the past three years, and nearly 70 percent of the school’s teachers have advanced degrees and credentials.

About Belk, Inc.
Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk, Inc. ( is the nation’s largest family owned and operated department store company with 299 Belk stores located in 16 Southern states and a growing digital presence.  Its website offers a wide assortment of national brands and private label fashion apparel, shoes and accessories for the entire family along with top name cosmetics, a wedding registry and a large selection of quality merchandise for the home. Founded in 1888 by William Henry Belk in Monroe, N.C., the company is in the third generation of Belk family leadership and has been committed to community involvement since its inception. In the fiscal year ended Feb. 1, 2014, the company and its associates, customers and vendors donated more than $20.9 million to communities within Belk market areas.

Belk offers many ways to connect via digital and social media, including Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Google Plus and Belk Blog, and provides exclusive offers, fashion updates, sales notifications and coupons via email or mobile phone text messages. Customers can also download the latest Belk mobile apps for the iPad, iPhone or Android.

About Discovery Education
Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content and professional development for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content that supports the implementation of Common Core, professional development, assessment tools, and the largest professional learning community of its kind.  Available in over half of all U.S. schools and primary schools in England, community colleges and in 50 countries around the world, Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that accelerate academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education at

About ISTE
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE®) is the premier nonprofit organization serving educators and education leaders committed to empowering connected learners in a connected world. ISTE serves more than 100,000 education stakeholders throughout the world.

ISTE’s innovative offerings include the ISTE Conference & Expo — one of the biggest, most comprehensive ed tech events — as well as the widely adopted ISTE Standards for learning, teaching and leading in the digital age and a robust suite of professional learning resources, including webinars, online courses, consulting services for schools and districts, books, and peer-reviewed journals and publications. For more information, visit Connect with ISTE via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.


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