Going the Extra Mile to Help Others

Jack Dippold '09 and his 4th-grade students raise funds for a well in Africa

May 12, 2014

Dippold and his fourth-grade class

By Veronica Gockenbach ‘14

Knox College graduate Jack Dippold '09 began his philanthropic class project like he began his teaching career: with the willingness to learn and the desire to try something new.

Dippold and his fourth-grade class at Nielson Elementary School in Galesburg, Illinois, raised money to provide a well for an African village through the organization Water is Life (WiL). He began the project as a new approach to teaching his students about generosity, one of several core values he and his students explore, along with confidence, respect, and effort.

He showed his young students an online video of 4-year-old child from Kenya with a bucket list -- a list of things to do before dying. The 4-year-old represented the one in five children in Africa who will die before the age of 5 from diseases spread by contaminated water. WiL provides water filtration straws for developing countries, and Dippold thought that purchasing about $50 worth of the straws would make a great class project.

His students set their sights much higher: They told Dippold that they wanted to raise enough money for a $6,500 well instead.

"I didn't really expect it to go that far," said Dippold, who majored at Knox in elementary education with a minor in business and management. "We talk about setting our goals as high as we can all the time. And that's kind of the thing that pushed the kids to want to go for as much as we could."

Dippold recalled that when he was a Knox student, he would hear stories "about teachers that had done these incredible things. And I remember always thinking, 'I don't know if I'm ever going to be like that. I don't know if I'm ever going to be at the level that these professors are talking about.'"

The Nielson fourth-graders asked everyone they knew for donations, got other Nielson classes involved in the project, and made presentations in front of several Galesburg community organizations. Dippold helped 10 of his students create a video presentation for the school board. Media coverage by the Galesburg Register-Mail and Peoria Journal Star brought in letters and donations.

They collected a total of just over $11,000, Dippold said. That's 220 times his original goal of $50, and nearly double the amount the students had hoped to raise.

WiL plans to take photos of the well's installation when it takes place, and Dippold looks forward to having his students see the results of their hard work.

This is Dippold's fourth -- and he says his best -- year at Nielson. He plans to continue giving back with next year's class, this time focusing on local issues. He'd like to implement a leadership group of outstanding fourth- and fifth-grade students who would learn about what leaders do and then invite Galesburg citizens to work with them on a community beautification project.

Dippold wants his students to continue their generosity after they leave Nielson -- and to never forget how they achieved their goal of raising enough money for the well.

"Whatever problem they have in their life, they can always remember that at one point they did this amazing thing. I want them to understand that no matter how terrible things are, no matter how bad the situation ever gets, if they just care about something enough and put an effort into it, then good things come out of it."

(Photo at top of page: Jack Dippold '09, standing at back and center, with his students.)