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Junior High Students Active In Community Service
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Community service fundraisers and a food drive have been part of an ongoing campaign at Oakdale Junior High School, raising student awareness about various needs in the community.

To help spur efforts, the second period homeroom classes often compete against each other to see who can contribute the most.

The school just wrapped up “Pennies for Patients,” a fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. OJHS Leadership advisor Candi Crawford reported that the students raised a total of $678 school-wide.

Rachel Torres’ class brought in the most money to contribute, raising more than $250. Cheryl Thompson’s class brought in $110.

Torres contributes part of her class’ success in fundraising to sharing stories with her students about the people who will benefit, and she also allows her students to share their own experiences. As well, she makes it a point to have students share the information about the community service events with their families.

“Parents have stepped up, donating large amounts,” she said. “…One student brought in $100.”

Torres noted that she had other students who brought in $20 apiece.

“Overall, I find that everyone in my class, pretty much, gives. Even if it’s a couple dollars,” she added.

In the fall, the school held a food drive to benefit Oakdale’s Community Sharing. Torres’ class won that competition as well, as they brought in a whopping 1,100 food items for the food drive.

She said that she motivated her students by pointing out to them that there are many local families who have lost their homes and jobs in this economy and are struggling. She told them that there are also students who are homeless in this community. This type of information “opens their eyes,” she said, and makes them realize that they don’t live in a bubble.

“The food drive was amazing — twice as much food was donated this (school) year compared to last,” said Crawford. “The students really did a great job helping out the Oakdale community. Ms. Torres’ class and Mrs. (Gillian) Weggener’s class really did a fabulous job — they were the winners bringing in the most cans.”

Torres said that junior high age students feel very strongly about everything, which, she believes, plays a role in them getting on board to help others.

“These kids are so motivated by good causes. They’re passionate,” she said. “…I tell them, ‘if you don’t have money or goods, then donate your time’… I would like to see them volunteer hours.”

Crawford said that the school is currently in the process of collecting money for the Relay for Life event in honor of former Magnolia Elementary School Principal and school board member Pam Antinetti, who died earlier this year. Each classroom is hosting a collection bottle labeled “Coins for a Cure” to benefit the American Cancer Society. A prize will be given to the top two classrooms.

Following spring break, the school will also conduct a similar effort to help the Haiti earthquake victims.

“(Students) Hannah Hanko and Kalkidan Curtis brought this idea to the student council meeting after the tragedy happened in Haiti,” Crawford said. “The money that is collected will be donated to Unicef. I am very proud of the girls for starting something like this at our school for those less fortunate. Our student council was very willing to sponsor the fundraiser school-wide to help out.”

Torres said that she tries to create a community within her classroom and gives her students praise for what they do.

“If you give them the opportunity to rise above and to do something positive, they will meet your expectations,” she said.