First Lady Maria Lee’s #TNKidsServe Summer Challenge

As school winds down for the summer, our thoughts as teachers turn to ways we can help our students stay engaged with learning and the world around them after they’ve left our classroom. In years past, I’ve sent home review packets, writing journals, reading challenges, and parent tips to keep the summer learning going.

First Lady Maria Lee

This year, First Lady Maria Lee has launched the best summer opportunity yet for kids. On Monday, May 20, she launched Tennessee Serves, and as a part of that rollout she’s calling on Tennessee kids across the state to join her in serving their communities through the #TNKidsServe Summer Challenge. Beginning June 1 and running through August 1, this challenge is a calling to motivate our kids who are rising kindergarteners through sixth graders to give back to their communities and care for their neighbors during the summer.

Here’s how your students can participate in the challenge. For rising kindergarteners, first graders, and second graders who choose to participate, kids can choose from 3 of the 8 categories below and should have a total of at least 8 service hours. For rising third through sixth graders, kids can pick from 5 of the 8 categories and should have a total of at least 12 service hours.

The service categories are:

Category 1: First Responders


  • Make a homemade card of thanks for a first responder
  • Deliver a batch of cookies to your local fire station or EMT crew

Category 2: Neighborhood


  • Help a neighbor with yard work
  • Have a lemonade stand and give the money to charity

Category 3: Food Insecure


  • Bring groceries to a local food bank
  • Help a local charity pack food boxes

Category 4: Get Well Soon


  • Make a “get well soon” card for a child at a children’s hospital
  • Provide soft socks, blankets, or hats to a hospital that treats cancer patients

Category 5: Military


  • Make a summer pen pal with someone serving in the military and send them encouraging letters
  • Send a care package

Category 6: Elderly


  • Bring fresh flowers to someone at a nursing home
  • Offer to help a senior citizen with a chore

Category 7: Outdoors


  • Pick up trash at a public park or green space
  • Bring donuts to a park ranger

Category 8: Family Care


  • Donate toys or games to a local safe house
  • Provide back-to-school supplies for a foster family

To get started, parents can visit to sign up. They’ll receive additional information and a service log to complete and return.

First Lady Maria Lee creates cards with students from Moore Magnet Elementary School.

All kids who participate will receive a certificate signed by First Lady Maria Lee. Those who complete the highest number of service hours during the challenge will be invited to a special Summer Service Carnival event on September 14, 2019, at the Tennessee Residence with Governor Bill Lee and the First Lady to celebrate their summer of service.

One of the most important things we can do for our students is give them the opportunity to see that they don’t have to wait until they grow up to make a difference in the world. They can have a tremendous impact on those around them right now, where they are … beginning this summer.