By Katie Harris
The Surveyor in Berthoud
It’s been nearly a year since Berthoud High School (BHS) librarian Carin Barrett launched the school’s Compassionate Maker Space, a place where students can come together to create items for those in need in the community, and the program is going stronger than ever.
“Last year I was looking for ideas for my ‘Philanthropy as Civic Engagement’ class to make things to be donated to non-profits,” said Barrett. “I tweeted something and a librarian in New York tweeted back explaining what she did in her library. As I got to looking at what she was doing with her students I realized that this could be much bigger than just one class, it could be something for all the students in the school to do.”
Barrett and library assistant Michelle Trujillo began brainstorming project ideas, and by May 2017 they’d converted their library office space into a crafting area and Compassionate Maker Space was born.
“A person that works at our school had attended a meeting with a woman from Restore Innocence, a group that makes restoration bags for people who have been rescued from sex trafficking circles,” said Barrett. “We decided to start there.”
She opened up the space to the entire school, while making it known that participation was entirely voluntary. It wasn’t long before the first project was running in full swing.
“Once it was explained to them, almost every student wanted to help in one way or another,” said Barrett. “I think it quickly changed the vibe of our library. Students would peek in there and they’d be intrigued by what was going on.”
When designing the space, Barrett and Trujillo did their best to create a relaxed atmosphere in order to make it easy for students to participate when and how they wanted.
“There are options where students can just contribute and don’t have to finish a whole project, or we have bins where students can leave unfinished projects and come back to them where they’re able,” said Barrett. “They can come in during their open periods, during lunch, or during student advisory. It’s nice because students who can’t drive have limited options for volunteering in Berthoud, so this gives them a way to earn volunteer hours.”
For BHS senior Henry Mizer, the flexibility the project offered is one of the main reasons he got involved.
“My favorite thing about the maker space is the fact that it’s so easy to volunteer,” he said. “I can go in on one of my off hours and make a difference for 45 minutes of my day.”
Since the maker space opened last May, Barrett said more than 10 percent of the student body has participated, creating nearly 300 projects for eight different non-profits. Projects have included small pillows donated to Medical Center of the Rockies to cover hospitalized patients’ medical ports, 3D printer toys such as puzzles and rattles for Operation Smile, and scarves and hats for FoCo Cafe and the Longmont Public Library’s coat tree.
BHS senior Sophie Visger’s favorite projects were the pillowcases and pillowcase dresses the students made to go with the port pillows.
“I made quite a few pillowcases because they were easy and very therapeutic,” she said. “As for the dresses, I liked those most because I got to build on my sewing skills and build something so proactive with new people.”
Once projects are complete, Barrett mails or hand delivers them to the recipients, bringing her students along with her when possible.
“The FoCo Cafe was interesting,” she said. “Our class visited the cafe on a field trip, and there were a few students in my class who had made scarves to donate and were able to deliver them themselves. When the place is close and there’s that opportunity, we’ll definitely do that. They left wanting to volunteer in other ways too, which was great.”
Ella North, a freshman at BHS can attest to that sentiment. “Personally, [volunteering] has made a difference in my life because I have been more aware of my own blessings, which I take for granted, and how much I value these.”
Just as all work completed in the maker space is done on a volunteer basis, 100 percent of the funding for materials is donated. According to Barrett, a large portion of the money was donated by an anonymous Berthoud Community member, with a fundraiser through the Thompson Education Foundation raising an additional $700 for materials. Barrett said, due to a lack of storage, the best way to contribute is through a tax deductible cash donation, which can be written to BHS with “Make for Good” in the memo.
“No school funds have been used for this,” said Barrett. “It’s really good in the sense that the students know that the community supports this too.”
As another school year draws to a close, Barrett hopes to engage every student at BHS in Compassionate Maker Space by the time they graduate.
“I really hope that this becomes something that new students coming into the school already consider an opportunity and look forward to getting to do,” she said. “The students who have done it so far, they come back; they want to do it again and recruit others. I want to see that whole ecosystem grow even more.”
For the students at BHS, contributing to the effort has given them something to be proud of and feel good about.
“Being a part of the maker space has helped me to focus my energies on helping others and getting out of my head, said Visger. “It’s been a really amazing opportunity.”