Seventh graders at North Middle School in Belleville, Mich., completed their third fundraiser for the African Well Fund during the recent spring semester. Through a variety of fundraising activities, including a spaghetti dinner hosted at the middle school, the students raised $5,730 which will be used to fund water and sanitation projects in Buhera, Zimbabwe.
Steven Hudock is social studies department chair and a sixth and seventh grade gifted talented teacher at North Middle School. He answered a few questions the benefits these fundraisers have had for his students and shared some comments students had about the fundraiser in a recent survey Hudock conducted.
North Middle School seventh graders have been raising money for AWF for three years. Why do you feel it's important for your students to raise money each year?
In the seventh grade Michigan curriculum, students are required to learn about the Eastern Hemisphere. Students are also supposed to be active in researching a global issue, problem solving and presenting on said issue. Africa is a continent riddled with social, economic and political issues, and is an area which we teach. Students and teachers alike find it to be where our efforts should be focused when it comes to these areas of our curriculum. Moreover, it seems like so many have taken from Africa and that it is time to give back.
Furthermore, we are talking about a basic necessity, something most of us take for granted on a daily basis. One student [Sreyas Narayanan] commented on his survey: "It's (our efforts) very helpful for the African people and it makes Americans think of how much they waste and how much things they take for granted."
Not only do we need to realize that we have these benefits/luxuries, but there is also the idea of being a global community. The need exists to help everyone and in return we all benefit. Another student [Marquis Morgan] commented on his survey: "I feel that it is really helping the people of Africa because you never know. There could be a child in Africa who we help who could become a scientist and invent things we'll use and your (our) help could be his/her motivation."
How do you tie the fundraiser in with the curriculum?
The fundraiser gives the students their voice, I feel. We not only do the spaghetti dinner where students have responsibilities to serve as entertainment, educators, informers, as well as cooks and servers, but we also allow students to try their own way of problem solving and fundraising. We are trying to have students be active citizens in our global world and encourage them to come up with ways they can contribute. Last school year a student and his parent sponsored our "Bowling for Africa" event. This year students and parents created and donated gift baskets for our raffle. Students personally collected money from families and wrote letters to family members, celebrities and politicians for donations.
The fundraising is tied to the curriculum because it gets students involved in community service, but it also requires them to write, present and read. They create a product (letter, presentation, etc) and take it to the public. This is real-world application and students love this. Not to mention, they thrive to make it better than something they would just hand in to their teacher for a grade.
How do the school and community get involved in your fundraiser?
Our PTO [parent teacher organization] sponsors our spaghetti dinner fundraiser. This means they pay for the product as well as prepare it along with our students. This year our police chief donated some of the spaghetti and sauce. Local businesses from individuals making products to sell to larger chains or restaurants make donations for our item raffle at our spaghetti dinner. Students solicit businesses as well as write letters to local politicians and federal politicians asking for support.
Seventh grader Megan Seay received the following note from Michigan State House of Representatives member Dian Slavens:
Dear Mr. Hudock, 7th Grade class, and Megan Seay, I am very impressed with the great work you are doing at North Middle School! Not only are you learning about Africa and its water source, you are doing something to make a difference. I am so proud to see such hard working educators and students actively changing the lives of so many people, in a positive way. Enclosed is a $50 check for your project. I will attempt to make it to your spaghetti dinner, if session does not run late. Again Thank You!!!
Rep. Slavens attended our spaghetti dinner last year and, as you see, continues to be support of our efforts. I believe our students do a great job trying to get community support. Also our spaghetti dinner supports our community as well. It provides a very reasonable meal for families in our district as well as an opportunity for our community to come together, socialize with one another, and support a cause.
This year, the students raised over $5,700. How did they feel knowing they raised that much?
Izzy Wilcox, a seventh grade student wrote, "I like knowing that we helped them."
I really feel that this is the sentiment of all of our students. This year particularly was difficult. Our district, like most in the nation, faced and went through some severe budget cuts; these cuts eliminated our teaming initiative, which made this project more difficult to manage and placed more responsibilities on the students. This being said, combined with the economic difficulties especially in our region of the country, the $5,730 our students raised speaks a lot about their desire to help the people of Africa.
How does participating in this fundraiser impact your students?
"I am glad that we got to help save lives in Africa. I believe that we really did make a difference in our world," wrote Olivia Borgdorff, a seventh grade student.
As you can see, participating in this fundraising event makes our students feel they have made a difference. They feel accomplished. I can quote survey after survey that would give you sentiments like Olivia's above. Our students really feel and know they have brought about great change in the lives and future lives of many people.
What have been some of the highlights of this year's fundraiser for you?
Our spaghetti dinner is always a highlight. Many of our students work this event by greeting guests. I was particularly impressed this year with a group of boys who headed up our water-carry station. As guests arrive, students greet them, ask them to carry water and explain why they are carrying the water. This group of boys had their spiel down and was letting no one through without them listening and understanding why they were carrying water.
Our final assembly is also a highlight. This year we recognized over 60 individual students for their individual efforts of going above and beyond the norm to help with this project. This means they secured donations as well as put in extra time themselves to help our efforts.
Students' African art and poetry was displayed in the halls. Also a pleasant surprise was when Ms. Knight, an art teacher at our high school, stopped by with an envelope of money that her art students took upon themselves to donate to our cause. This year is the first year we have former students who did this project at our high school, so it is nice to see they have an interest in supporting each year's effort. To me this is what we were (are) trying to instill in them when they were here doing it themselves. This entire project is a highlight for our school and community.
Anything else you would like to add about this year's fundraiser?
Just that I am so very proud of our students' efforts and their dedication. They did a fantastic job. I am also very thankful for such dedicated and supportive faculty, administration, parents, and community that were so involved with our efforts this year. We continue to make the world a better place through our efforts.
To read about North Middle School's 2008 African Well Fund fundraiser, click here. To read about the school's 2009 fundraiser, click here. If your school is interested in raising funds for AWF, download our Educational Kit here or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.