“We work hard for students to see themselves as leaders and changemakers so that if something presents itself, they are aware of opportunities to make a difference,” Randi said.
The Fifth Grade led the Blazer fundraiser (baked goods and crafts) in conjunction with the Lower School Fine Arts Evening on Wednesday, May 26 and Thursday, May 27. In total, more than $1,300 was raised and benefitted the Seattle branch of the International Rescue Committee as well as Save the Children.
“I think it was important for us to get involved simply because it’s important to help people in need, whether in big ways or in small ways,” Audrey T. ’29 said. “In Fifth Grade, we watched the news almost every day, so we talked and learned about Ukraine a lot, and how people were, and still are, suffering. Our grade got together and decided to get involved by putting together a fundraiser to help.”
Randi and Neil explained the students became interested in helping out—especially with Lower School Teaching Assistant Vlad Zdorenko, who has family in Ukraine—from viewing what was going on in the world while watching CNN 10, a news program tailored toward students. Last year, the two Fifth Grade classes met in the Community Room and brainstormed ways to make a difference. Ultimately, the students decided on a two-day fundraiser, splitting into groups that each were assigned different tasks.
Audrey explained Randi and Neil gave them specific chunks in the day to work on the fundraiser planning, but they also used free time in the school day and after school to get things done.
“There were six groups, and each handled a different part of the fundraiser: public relations, posters, crafts, baking, articles, research, and executive,” Audrey said. “I was part of the executive team, which was in charge of overseeing everything, helping different groups and reaching out to teachers and staff to help get everything up and running. As far as research goes, there was quite a bit of thought that went into which organizations to give the money to, but the research team decided on the Seattle branch of IRC and Save the Children.”
Randi said part of this project was learning about the plight of refugees and making sure students knew they could make a difference here in Seattle despite this being an extremely complex global matter.
“Unfortunately, what’s happening in Ukraine is not an isolated event. There’s always groups of people who are being expelled from their country or fleeing from unsafe living conditions. What can we do on our side? We also reminded them that months later, ‘This might not be as prominent in the news, but does that make it not worthwhile?’ And they stepped up and led; they communicated with the organizations and figured out how to donate the money,” Randi said.
Both Neil and Randi also emphasized the ownership from the students and their courage to step up into the leadership role as the oldest class of the Lower School.
“I think that it took courage to help with this issue. Not many of us have done something like that before, and some of us were stepping outside our comfort zone to help,” Audrey said. “That shows courage. A lot of us were used to sitting back and watching while the adults helped, because we didn’t know what to do. Randi and Neil only gave us little pushes along the way; the whole thing was mostly student-run. It took courage to step forward and work together to do a fundraiser that raised more than $1,300.”
Audrey said through this project she experienced the feeling of making a difference and how to help individuals that really need it.
“It means a lot to me that I was able to contribute to helping refugees and that Bush gave us the chance to,” she said.
-by Mary Albl, Communications Manager