Through the main doors of Sylvania High School, down the hallway and to the left is room No. 12– the home economics room. This classroom belongs to Hannah Neel. When Neel’s students enter her room, they enter an environment where they learn valuable life skills needed to thrive in the world outside of school.

Recently, Neel’s students have been working on a set of projects that will reach beyond Sylvania High School.

The students have learned the art of loom knitting and have been making winter caps for premature babies and for children who are clinically ill.

Neel said she had a group of football players who were inspired by University of Alabama at Birmingham football player Adrienne Talan.

Neel said Talan has a connection with Children’s Harbor, which is a safe haven for children with serious illnesses and their families.

“Adrienne has a buddy at Children’s Harbor who wants to be a football player one day,” Neel said. “During UAB’s homecoming, Adrienne wore his friend’s name on his back and that inspired the football players I have in class.”

The students got to choose an organization to donate their hats to and Neel said they chose Children’s Harbor.

“The football players that I have in class made Adrienne’s friend a hat and they are writing a letter for him to go with it,” she said.

Neel said the hats that her students are making for premature babies will be donated to a local children’s hospital with a premature unit.

Neel said the hat project has been therapeutic for her students.

“Each student has to make two hats,” she said. “They make one to donate and then I let them make one for themselves. A lot of my kids come in here and they have a lot on their minds. I love for them to be able to come in here and do something that doesn’t stress them out.”

The other project that Neel’s class is working on fell in line with a sewing safety unit. Neel said each student had to pass a sewing safety test and to do so, the students sewed dresses and pillows.

These dresses are not just any dresses, though– they will be new outfits for orphan children in Haiti.

Neel said she is taking part in leading a group during a mission trip in December. During the trip, she and the other members will have the opportunity to distribute the dresses.

“We will be staying in an orphanage in Haiti for two days,” she said. “We will be taking the pillows and dresses to the orphanage when we go, so about 55 pillows and dresses will be distributed.

Neel said she wanted to share opportunities with her students that reach beyond themselves.

“I wanted to inspire them to think outside of themselves,” she said. “And I wanted them to share the joy of making kids at Children’s Harbor feel loved and accepted and to celebrate all they are fighting for.”

Neel said she, too, has learned from the projects.

“This has taught me to think outside of the box and to love father than the four walls I work in every day,” she said.

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