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TOTALLY EAST TEXAS: All Saints students get to 'the heart' of a project

An All Saints teacher's daughter, who was born with a heart defect, inspires a project for her entire English class to give courage to other 'heart kids.'

TYLER, Texas — Think back to high school English. Can you remember getting assigned that paper which required research, hours of writing and just hoping for an "A?"

But what if your English teacher gave you a project so impactful that it wouldn't just change you, but a child's life, as well.

That's Totally East Texas.

"I wanted to create a project where my students could take something that we're doing in the classroom and relate it to the real world," said Emily Twomey, All Saints Upper School English Teacher. "And I thought congenital heart defect month would be a great opportunity for that."

Sometimes a project is more than a grade and sometimes the teacher who assigned it is much more than the leader of the class.

"I have a special needs daughter with a congenital heart defect. So, I was feeling really inspired by that and everything we've been through throughout her journey," explained Mrs. Twomey.

Emily Twomey not only teaches upper school English at All Saints Episcopal School in Tyler, she's also Madeline's mom.

Her little girl is one of the more than 3,600 precious Texas babies born with a heart defect each year, according to the Congenital Heart Public Health Consortium.

"So, I reached out to Texas Children's Hospital and all of the heart mamas and heart families there. And I asked if anyone would want to be part of this project. So, then I had all of those moms write their stories about their children and everything that they have going on medically," said Mrs. Twomey.

The students chose a child to be the focus of their project. Mrs. Twomey had them research their child's heart defect and teach the class about it.

"And then, they created a project, a service portion, which they created something, anything that they wanted, using the school's technology to give to the child," Mrs. Twomey said.

"I just think it was a good, like learning experience, like learning how to impact others and work for others," said Sarah Jordan, All Saints Episcopal School student.

Sarah Jordan was inspired Braden. 

"He's five years old, he gave us a biography of like things he likes. So, one of the things being that he liked was Iron Man," said Jordan.

Sarah decided he needed an arc reactor, just like his favorite superhero.

"It kind of reminds me of the Iron Man suit, it is in the middle of the chest and it reminds me of a heart," said Jordan.

She knew just where to create it and who to turn to for a collab in the Fab Lab.

"Sara, I have her for a different class for entrepreneurship and so she approached me during that class and asked if she could use the resources of the fab lab for this project. And I asked her to send me her plans," said Patty Mabry, Director of the Center for Innovation at All Saints Episcopal School. 

Patty Mabry is the Director of the Center of Innovation at All Saints. 

"So, Sarah came in on her free time. She came in during study hall, before class, you know, before school and after," said Mrs. Mabry.

It required using technology and tools like this AP printer, fiberglass, wood and lights, all to recreate something heartfelt, for a little boy who's already been through so much.

"So, he can take this to his doctor's appointments and just hold it with him and play around with it and just use it as a sense of comfort," said Jordan.

Mrs. Twomey says, "And it lights up and that way he feels strong, like Iron Man and that just made me emotional as well. It was so beautiful."

"I mean, if you learn how to, one, problem solve, but number two, do empathy based design and find that passion, you know and you know we ignite passion that's what we do and we want to impact not just All Saints, not just Tyler, not just East Texas, but everywhere," explained Mrs. Mabry.  

The students created shirts, a basketball goal, a birdhouse, one of a kind art and even a letter about heading off to college for Mrs. Twomey's young daughter, who inspired the project. 

"To have two students that I love dearly connect into another part of my life, which is my daughter, and she's my whole heart and soul. And it was just beautiful that they were putting so much effort and empathy and caring thoughts into this letter for her," Mrs. Twomey said. "I feel like I'll always have a forever piece of them to give back to my daughter.

So many families impacted by this one project.... in an English class... in Tyler, Texas.

"They have such big hearts, they really do," said Mrs. Twomey. 

That's Totally East Texas.