Forever in Our Heart (4evr in r <3)

Urbana Middle School, Frederick County, Audrey Smith & Dana Libby

Primary Subject: Language Arts 
Grade Level: 6, 7 & 8
Additional Subject Area Connections:  Leadership Development, Character Counts, Service-Learning, Art, Technology, and Math
Project Title:  Forever in Our Heart (4evr in r <3)
Type(s) of Service:  Indirect, and Advocacy
Project Description:  The Forever in Our Heart project empowers the group members to make a difference in their community. After the death of a friend as a result of domestic violence, these students were able to channel their grief in a positive way by supporting the Heartly House and raising awareness about domestic violence.
Potential Service-Learning Action Experiences:
  • Develop an advocacy campaign about domestic violence
  • Support The Heartly House, a shelter that provides a safe house for victims of domestic violence
  • Conduct fundraising for Heartly House
  • Write advocacy letters and articles regarding domestic violence to send to legislatures or the media
  • Create a public service announcement on domestic violence

Alignment with Maryland’s Best Practices of Service-Learning

1. Meet a recognized community need (e.g. What health, education, environment or public safety need was met? How did you determine there was a real need in this area? Who was helped by your project?)

After the death of their friend due to a domestic violence incident, the Forever in Our Heart group was established at Urbana Middle School (UMS). The group realized that domestic violence was present in their own lives. They wanted to prevent other tragedies by raising awareness about domestic violence through educating others and supporting the Heartly House that serves the community as a safe house for victims. The group began an awareness of domestic violence campaign by selling silicone wristbands with 4evr in r <3 (Forever in Our Heart) on them. This way, students at UMS could show their support and physically show that they were making a difference by wearing their wristband. The group continued using fundraisers at area businesses to earn money for the Heartly House and held a culminating “Teen Nite,” a dance and sports night, at Urbana Middle School so all the students of UMS could join in and participate with the Forever in Our Heart project. Through all their activities, Forever in Our Heart was able to present the Heartly House with a check for $4,000.00.

2. Achieve curricular objectives through service-learning (How did the project reinforce or enhance student academic learning?)

Tammie Keener, Community Educator from the Heartly House, came to Urbana Middle School to talk to the students about domestic violence. The Forever in Our Heart group decided to help the Heartly House continue its work in the community. Through the fundraisers they organized to help support the Heartly House , the students learned firsthand how to write letters and personally contact area businesses to help support their project, how to advertise and promote their fundraisers, and how to use technology to create a website to communicate with the community about their endeavor to prevent domestic violence and support victims. They incorporated what they learned though their classes at Urbana Middle School, Language Arts and Career and Technology, to guide them to reach out to the community.

3. Reflect throughout the service-learning experience (What types of activities did students engage in to reflect on their project?)

Students formed weekly lunch meetings to reflect on their project’s progress and determine what they needed to do next.

4. Develop student responsibility (How did students have opportunities to make decisions about the service-learning project and take on leadership?)

The group completed a survey to indicate what role they wanted to take in the project. This way, members were able to sign up for specific jobs they felt best connected with their strengths. They had to rate each committee category on a scale of one to five and write a short paragraph on why they wanted to be part of the group. The information was then compiled and the committees formed. Each committee consists of three to four members as the leaders of the committee. The leaders solicited others to assist them. The committees are: Memorial, Fundraising / Power, Public Relations, Promotions and Vision/ Training. The group worked as a team, scheduled fundraising dates and solved problems as leaders of Forever in Our Heart.

The students also solicited donations from community partners and presented a check from fundraising efforts to The Heartly House in Frederick, Maryland.

5. Establish community partnerships (With what community partners did you collaborate? Non-profits, civic organizations, businesses that provided donations, etc.)

Tammie Keener, Community Educator from the Heartly House, spoke to the group about domestic violence and how The Heartly House was established to help the victims. The Frederick News Post devoted a whole week of press about the increase of domestic violence in the area and interviewed the students about their thoughts and feelings about the loss of the Brockdorff family due to domestic violence.

The Forever in Our Heart website has a donor page devoted to showcase all the community partners that provided donations and/or support for the group. The list can be found at However, the support of the principal, guidance counselors, and teachers of Urbana Middle School is the heart and soul of the project and the main reason for its success. In addition to the faculty and staff of UMS, the group received overwhelming support from the families of Urbana Middle School in the form of direct donations, food, and volunteers.

6. Plan ahead for service-learning (How did you prepare and plan for the project?)

The group decided to have a “Lunch Meeting” every Wednesday during their lunch period in a conference room at school to discuss plans and make decisions about upcoming fundraisers. Each week, an agenda was put together to help facilitate and organize the meeting. The students discussed the agenda and established deadlines to meet their goals.

7. Equip students with knowledge and skills needed for service (What did students learn through the experience?)

This service-learning project integrated Language Arts objectives and Technology Literacy standards. Forever in Our Heart goals are expressed on the website, through letters written to area businesses, and contact with the media. Under the direction of Dana Lippy, a guidance counselor at UMS, the students worked together and coordinate with The Heartly House to achieve their goals.

Students learned a variety of skills to help them manage their organization. First and foremost, they learned how to come together as a group and make a positive difference in the community. They began to see beyond themselves and learned to reach out to others. They turned a personal tragedy into a community based project to help others and promote awareness of domestic violence. The students also learned how to plan and organize fundraisers. Numerous skills are needed to advertise, solicit, and promote a fundraiser. Through trial and error, the students learned what worked and what didn’t. Finally, they learned how to deal with tragedy and turn their sorrow into something positive. They established a strong bond with one another and have matured together. Some of the members may not have been friends before forming the group, but they have become friends through a common goal and cause. As they move towards adulthood, they will take the experiences learned through Forever in Our Heart and use them for a lifetime.