Student posing with a certificate in front of a smiley face background

Ava Hettinger

Courtesy of Cheryl Van Laeken

Dial For Smiles

Do you need a pick-me-up? A group of fifth-graders at Milford School in Indiana have just what you need. Their “When Life Gives You Lemons, Call a 5th Grader” hotline is meant to lift people’s spirits. 

Milford School teacher Cheryl Van Laeken and her students set up the phone line last March. They were inspired by students in California who had done something similar.

People who call the hotline at 574-832-4965 can pick from five categories. The first is “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” facts. Callers can also choose to hear jokes, pep talks and advice, inspirational quotes, or kind sayings.

Courtesy of Cheryl Van Laeken

These Milford students started the hotline. 

The students researched quotes from famous people and jokes and then worked together to choose the ones they wanted to record for the hotline. To keep it fresh, the class recorded new content every few weeks. 

“I want people to enjoy it,” says 11-year-old Ava Hettinger. She was a student in Van Laeken’s class last year. “If they’re having a bad day, they can just call and get a pep talk.” 

Van Laeken kept the hotline going this fall with her new fifth-graders—and with some help from last year’s students. 

“If we can be a small light in a dark world, I’ll take it,” Van Laeken says.