Generous Middle School Student Finds New Friends in Life Skills Class

 03/24/2017 - 00:16
Saline Middle School student Emily McCulloch sits with Gillian Singel the beanbag chair that McColluch donated to Singel's classroom.

Emily McCulloch isn’t your typical seventh grader.

When the Saline Middle School student’s 13th birthday neared, McCulloch didn’t inundate her parents with requests for the latest gadgets and expensive clothes. Instead, she asked her family to donate money so that she could purchase items for students with disabilities in Heidi Phelps’ life skills classroom at Saline Middle School.

McCulloch, the daughter of Mark and Jenny McCulloch, used the money to purchase a couple of next-generation software games and accessories and a beanbag chair.

The gifts have been well-received by the students, Phelps said.

“They love the beanbag chair,” Phelps said. “They find comfort in the chair. Sometimes staff will sit with students on the chair when we’re working with the students.”

The Osmo gaming accessory for the iPad has also been a good way for students to learn while having fun.

“A lot of the kids love the spelling game,” Phelps said. “Another popular game is the Tangram, which challenges students to organize wood puzzle pieces to match on-screen shapes.”

Generosity is nothing new to McCulloch. One of her projects is collecting money and sewing blankets for kids fighting cancer and other illnesses. McCulloch says that children are comforted by her “Hope Blankets.” (You can fund her blanket project by clicking here).

This year, she decided she wanted to help her schoolmates with disabilities. She was partially inspired by a cousin with autism.

She got to know the students through the school’s PAL program, which connects students with students with disabilities. But instead of eating with the life skills class students once a week and going bowling with the students once a month, she visits Phelps’ students for lunch every day.

“I’ve always liked connecting with the students. Everyone has their struggles. They’re just like us,” McCulloch said. “The students are really funny and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.”

As a result of her experience in Phelps’ classroom, McCulloch is thinking about a career as an occupational therapist in a hospital.

“I want to work with kids with disabilities and work in a hospital setting,” McCulloch said. “Getting to know the kids has helped me understand what I really want to do.”

McCulloch’s birthday generosity did not go unnoticed.

“Her generosity is so special. For her or any student to use their birthday money to give to other students is such a selfless act,” Phelps said.

After McCulloch brought the gifts to the class, Phelps and her students had their own gift for McCulloch. They serenaded her with “Happy Birthday” and shared cupcakes with her.

McCulloch said giving has its rewards.

“It makes me feel really good to know that I’m helping other people,” McCulloch said. “It’s been really nice getting to know all the students and their families.”

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at or call him at 734-272-6294.

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