Water Blogged

Teacher Jennifer Nekolny Witnesses Students Opening Up Through H2O for Life

Posted by Chelsea Morrison on October 14, 2015

Posted by H2O for Life Intern Talia Milavetz

Naperville teacher Jennifer Nekolny loves how H2O for Life gives her seventh graders the opportunity to participate in something special. The sixth graders focus on ancient history, and the eight graders focus on straight US history. This leaves Naperville seventh graders stuck somewhere in the middle without a clear direction or focus. When Naperville Junior High started participating in H2O for Life a few years back, it gave the seventh graders a new subject to be excited about. “It gives them something bigger than themselves and also really brings them together,” Nekolny said.

Bringing the grade together is a big task for a large school like Naperville. “We have five different elementary schools that feed in to us. Many of the students have never met before 6th grade. And then in 6th grade we have three different teams. So if they aren’t on the same team, most of them don’t even know each other exists. So H2O for Life is awesome because we have kids who have been in school together for a year who may not have ever met each other and now they are working together trying to get raffle tickets, or to create lunchtime games. They’re working on those ideas together with the kid who’s been down the hall for a year that they’ve never even met before.”

The impact H2O for Life has on Naperville students is incredible. A student named Taylor spent three periods in a row with Ms. Nekolny all year long. At the beginning of the year the students had to do a one-minute speech reflecting on a mystery piece they read. Taylor was so nervous. She looked at the clock and kept waiting for the bell to ring. Luckily for Taylor, time was up before she was able to stand in front of the class and give her speech. At the end of the period, Taylor went up to Ms. Nekolny and said nervously, “I can’t do this. I’ve never done a speech in front of people. I really don’t want to do this.” Ms. Nekolny tried to comfort her, saying that they could stand up in front of the class together the next day and do the speech. “Sure enough the next day she was absent. She kept avoiding it and finally I had her just give the speech to me in private at lunch time,” Nekolny said.

At the end of the year, the class was working on their final H2O for Life projects. Taylor got up in front of her peers, had material prepared, and rallied all of her classmates together.  Ms. Nekolny was so happily surprised with Taylor’s evolution and asked her what happened after class. Taylor said, “You know what? It’s passion. When it’s an assignment and it’s a have to, it’s so much harder.  But when it’s a want to, I can do it. I feel like I can do this now, like a I have a purpose.” Ms. Nekolny was crying when she heard this because she was so thrilled and so proud of her student.

Ms. Nekolny said, “It was awesome. Here’s a kid who was terrified to speak even in front of one person, and in the end she was able to step in front of her peers, which is the hardest group of all.”

The Naperville 203 Crosstown Collaboration has supported several schools around the world over the past few years.