FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As dozens of Fort Rucker Elementary School students took paint to bear to give Sgt. Ted E. Bear a new costume for Halloween, the children learned more than just how good the Fort Rucker icon looks clad in his new Ninja Turtle costume.

The FRES junior Beta Club members got the unique opportunity to get the post bear ready for Halloween, but the project wasn't just a chance for the children to get their hands dirty, but a valuable lesson in service leadership, according to Katherine Nelson, FRES reading specialist and Beta sponsor.

Nelson said that the Beta Club, which was originally started in South Carolina in the early 1900s, focuses much of its lesson on service leadership -- teaching children leadership through service.

So when the school was approached with the idea of painting the bear, they jumped at the opportunity, she said.

"These are leaders, and we're training them to be leaders, so we give them opportunities like (painting the bear), so they have to work together," she said. "(Beta) also focuses on scholarship, so part of the requirements to be a junior Beta, which is made up of fourth, fifth and sixth graders, is to have a good academic record, to be responsible and show good citizenship."

Nelson said the students were excited to get the chance to paint Sgt. Ted E. Bear, and the toughest decision they had to make was which Ninja Turtle they wanted him to be for Halloween -- Michelangelo.

Painting the bear isn't the club members' first time getting their hands dirty with work to benefit the community. In the past, the FRES Junior Beta Club has also worked on possible names for the new elementary school, which was presented to the school board, they collected books for the flood victims in Elba and this year they're collecting socks for the Soktober Project, which will be donated to the Dale Rescue Mission for families in need.

"We have a real diverse kind of focus, and as you go through the country and look at different Beta organizations, you see different focuses because they can focus on the areas of need in their specific community," said Nelson, adding that the focus for the students at FRES is on working together.

For Kalista Butler, sixth grade Junior Beta Club member, that focus on working together is what will help her to develop skills needed to be the leader she hopes to one day become.

"I want to be able to help people around the community and help to make a difference," she said. "We work on leadership skills and we do community projects, like the Soktober Project, and Beta Club has taught me how to be a good leader."

That level of dedication from each student is part of the ideals that Nelson said she hopes to be able to instill in the students as they learn.

"Working together is a 21st century skill," said the Beta sponsor. "You have to learn to collaborate and work with people and communicate, and if you can do that these kids will going be able to have a productive future."