As most of you know, the main goal of the Parker Blog is to promote healthy learning environments for our kids. We believe that one of the best ways parents and schools alike can do that is by creating an environment where kids are encouraged to serve and consider the needs of others. Thanks to a Facebook post from parent, Rachel Sullivan, we learned that Ezell Harding Christian School (http://www.ezellharding.com/) in Antioch, TN outside Nashville, is doing just that.
Sullivan told us that the students at Ezell Harding, a 650-student school serving students pre-K through high school, had just completed a year long, school wide fundraiser in which they raised over $7,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation (http://www.wish.org). We contacted the school directly to hear more about this wonderful project. Katey Earles, a high school World History teacher and the school’s Student Council sponsor, graciously filled us in on the details.
The project began when Chelsea Beavers, a Senior and last year’s Student Council President, saw a promotional flyer from Make-A-Wish. The flyer encouraged individuals and organizations to consider donating $7,000, the cost of granting one wish. One of the best-known charitable organizations in the country, the mission of Make-A-Wish is to “grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.” That flyer and the enthusiasm of Beavers were all that the school needed to get started.
Beavers approached Earles and asked if the Student Council could commit to raising the funds as a service project. Earles immediately liked the idea. It turns out Beecher Frasier, the school’s President, had been encouraging the teachers and staff at Ezell Harding to find ways for all ages of students to work together. Earles knew that it would take a lot of work by the entire student body to raise the $7,000. Although the school held several fundraisers throughout the year including dress up days, penny wars, ice cream days, and a song writers’ night (remember this is Nashville), one fundraiser in particular was by far the most successful – the school’s Make-A-Wish t-shirt days.
For this fundraiser, which raised over $3,000, the Student Council sold Make-A-Wish t-shirts that students, faculty and staff could purchase for $10. On special, Make-A-Wish days, those people who had purchased the shirts were allowed to wear them to school with jeans. OK, we know what you are thinking. Parker can’t be too excited about a fundraiser where kids get to wear something other than their uniforms. But remember, one of the reasons uniforms are so good for schools to adopt is that they foster a sense of unity and pride. We can’t think of a better example of this than the students at Ezell Harding all wearing their Make-A-Wish shirts for such a great cause. And it worked. According to Earles, over 500 students had purchased the shirts by the end of the school year.
After months of hard work, the school reached its goal by raising $7,300 The story does not stop there. In May, the entire student body got to meet the 6-year old cancer patient who they were able to send to Disney World. Earles says the event was quite moving for students and staff alike and really brought the entire project full circle. So much so, that the school is going to make it an annual event.
What makes a healthy learning environment for kids? We can think of a few things – supportive staff, safe hallways, healthy food – the list can go on and on. But for Ezell Harding Christian School in 2011/2012, it was the knowledge that by working together they could positively impact the life of another person. Lesson learned. May we encourage you and your schools to do the same.