Mariners’ students want to make a difference

When the Mariners Christian School community came together to raise more than $18,000 last February to help build a middle school in Gulu, Uganda, little did the students know that the effort was just the beginning.

“We wanted to do something that was not just about us giving but what we can do ... that will make a difference,” Mariners Christian Middle School Principal Heather Harrison said.

Harrison then issued a challenge to middle school students to develop their own plans to help communities within or outside of Orange County.

As part of the Difference-Makers project, the Costa Mesa school set aside $500 to fund one idea from its middle school and one from its elementary school. Students will submit ideas for teachers and staff to select from.

As part of the project, guest speakers will be brought in for about the next month to encourage the students’ involvement in social issues, Harrison said.

Mariners Christian kicked off the Difference-Makers chapel series last month with a visit from Jake Harriman, founder of Nuru International, an organization that seeks to end poverty in rural areas around the world.

Harriman, a Bronze Star recipient, has been honored as a White House Champion of Change and a Dalai Lama Unsung Hero of Compassion, according to a news release.

He founded Nuru International in 2008 after witnessing the effect of extreme poverty in war-torn regions during four tours of duty in the Marine Corps.

When speaking to the middle school class last month, Harriman recalled seeing extremist groups coerce impoverished people and how it compelled him to found Nuru International, which focuses on addressing hunger, disease, education and the economy in districts of Kenya and Ethiopia.

“We want to give people choices to fight poverty so they don’t have to support extremist groups,” Harriman told the middle schoolers. “When making a difference, it’s important to do it with a humble attitude.”

As of last week, Harrison said, seven Difference-Maker proposals had been submitted and she knew of more that would be coming in.

Submissions will be accepted until March 1, with selections made shortly after.

“We may open it up to a second round and expand the program more than expected,” Harrison said. “We feel like if a student identifies a need, then we should support them, and we want to be able to provide to them so they can go out and do what they feel called to do.”

Twitter: @AlexandraChan10