OTTAWA — An Ottawa High School senior’s English 12 project may turn into a career of helping children cope with parents’ drug addiction.

When Saydie Emperley was growing up, her mother was addicted to drugs.

“When I was little, I did not understand it,” Emperley said. “She hurt us kids so much because she acted like she did not want to have anything to do with us. My whole life was like this way.”

Emperley spent time in therapy to help her cope with her mother’s addiction.

“I want to help kids the way no one was able to help me,” she said. “There are many different ways [to cope].”

Emperley and senior students in Jennifer Kane’s English 12 class were assigned a project on a subject they are passionate about. For Emperley, this was an easy choice. She is in the process of building a website listing options for drug treatment along with therapists, her story and other pertinent information.

“Ms. Kane had people come talk to us about our passion,” Emperley said. “This is something I am really passionate about. I had to go to a therapist when I was little to cope with my mom being on drugs. This is the first thing that came to mind. I did not know how I was going to do it yet.

“A website would definitely be more impactful. They can go look that up. They can ask me any questions. I am completely open about it because my mom is clean. When she was addicted, it definitely was harder to talk about. She has overcome it. She is nine months clean and it means a lot to me.”

Emperley’s plan is to become a child psychologist.

“I want to help people,” she said.

20 Time Project

This is the fourth year Kane’s students have participated in the 20 Time Project. Kane said the project requires identifying something they are passionate about or interested in and using that to impact others.

“This is a real world experience,” Kane said. “It is exciting and scary at the same time -- exciting to watch them pursue something and own their learning; understand what it means to be a lifelong learner. That is the goal in this. Learning is a process. It’s scary at times because you want it to go well. You don’t always have control.”

The project is more than a class assignment for students, who are entering the adult world after May’s graduation.

Learning to adapt

Projects ranged from making a grill and smoker, which will be rented to generate funds for FFA, how to quilt and weld, creating an app for teens on budgeting money and partnering with Prairie Paws, a local animal shelter, to help with their donations.

Ashley Collins and Randee Huggard combined on a project for the animal shelter.

“It was difficult because we were not sure how we were going to start everything,” Collins said. “Not everything worked out like it is supposed to. We expected more donations.”

Collins made a dozen blankets and Huggard crocheted cat toys and blankets. They bought cleaning and pet supplies with the cash donations.

“I really like giving back to the community,” Collins said. “They run off donations. It feels good to help them out for all they do for the community.”