Students raise hundreds for hurricane relief
Posted 10/12/2017 12:54PM

Exchanging a dollar bill for a homemade cookie bar and a brownie, Durham Academy fourth-grader Shelby Little thanked her customer: “A dollar makes a difference!”

Indeed, a dollar does make a difference — especially when it’s combined with the hundreds of other dollars raised by DA Lower Schoolers and Preschoolers at this week’s bake sales to benefit hurricane relief efforts. The bake sales — Lower Schoolers set up on the Upper School campus and Preschoolers set up at the Middle School — raised a whopping $500 for One America Appeal in just the first day. The sales began on Tuesday and run through Thursday, and they’ll be followed by a change drive at Friday’s All-School Pep Rally and a movie night fundraiser at the Middle School on Friday evening following Homecoming events at the Upper School.

“Several kids came to me when Hurricane Harvey first hit Houston, and said, ‘We want to help,’” Lower School Director Carolyn Ronco said. “They remembered things we did last year in response to Hurricane Matthew, and it was really on their hearts to do something, to think beyond themselves.”

As planning for a hurricane relief project began, the need became more profound. Just a couple of weeks later, Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and Florida, and then Hurricane Maria proved catastrophic across the northeastern Caribbean — including Lower School Spanish teacher Mercedes Almodóvar’s native Puerto Rico. Almodóvar showed students dramatic before-and-after photos of her family’s home on the island, and energy galvanized toward a schoolwide fundraising project.

The idea to host bake sales on the Middle School and Upper School campuses — with the sweet treats and sweet smiles offered by Preschool and Lower School salespeople — was hatched at a meeting of school directors, Ronco said, noting that older students are often more likely to have money in their pockets to spend.

“I always want our Lower Schoolers to see themselves as Upper Schoolers one day — I want them to see themselves studying in the Learning Commons and all of the great things that are ahead for them,” she explained. “Anytime we can walk up the hill for our kids to see that, I think is important.”

A long table covered in brownies, cookies, cupcakes, crackers and popcorn has been set up in the Upper School Learning Commons all week and has been staffed by a rotation of first- through fourth-grade classes, with parents volunteering to fill in any staffing gaps. Preschool classes have made the short journey to the Academy Road campus via bus once a day, setting up two tables overflowing with treats during the Middle School’s morning break.

Second-graders Stella Brown and Talia Savas got together to make brownies for the sale. Their choice was no accident, they explained.

“Our teacher, Ms. Butler, likes brownies with Blue Bell ice cream, so we decided that brownies would be good,” Stella said. “Usually adults don't like sweet stuff that much, but we thought that if Ms. Butler like brownies, probably other people would too.”

They knew that the brownies would be a hit. “On the front cover, it said that they are triple chocolate. After we made them, we tried one, and they were really good,” Talia added after she and her classmates finished their shift at the bake sale table. “Now, there’s only one brownie left.”

Lower Schoolers haven’t been afraid to use their inherent cuteness to their advantage, with several students fanning out around the Learning Commons and in the quad to hawk doughnuts and bar cookies

“I was like, I have to buy something because they’re all lined up with their cute little faces asking me to help,” ninth-grader Raguell Couch said. “And it’s nice to know I’m helping out.”

DA’s hurricane-relief efforts continue on Friday with a change drive at the All-School Pep Rally. Students who wish to participate are reminded to bring in coins or cash to drop into One America Appeal collection jars at the rally. (The rally begins at 1:20; parents may watch via live-stream.)

In addition, a committee of Middle School students has organized a movie-night fundraiser for Friday evening. Following the Homecoming festivities on the Upper School campus, the Middle School campus will play host to an outdoor viewing of the film Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life. Games will begin at 7 p.m., and the screening will begin at 7:30 p.m. The student planning committee suggests a $15 donation for the movie; in addition, hot dogs, pizza, popcorn and other concessions will be available for purchase as part of the fundraiser. Proceeds will be split between One America Appeal and a foundation that supports residents of St. Maarten.

Being able to do something to help people struggling in Puerto Rico and other areas hit by hurricanes “feels really good,” fourth-grader Cheikh-Abdou N'Diaye said. “I think it’s good to feel like you’re helping somebody — more than one actually — and knowing you can make a difference in the world.”

In addition to a big fundraising total, one of the goals of this week’s efforts is that feeling of empowerment for students, Ronco said.

“It’s great to see them here and excited about what they are doing, so that they feel like they have, in any kind of catastrophe or traumatic event, that they can do something. It can really help alleviate that stress, for one thing, knowing that they’ve helped.”

View more photos from the bake sale on Flickr.

An independent, coeducational day school, pre-kindergarten through grade 12.
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