By Jeanne Starmack
The freshmen in Lisa Iberis’ language-arts classes learned it can happen very quickly — a slide into poverty.
A job is lost. A person gets sick or hurt. Then, through no fault of their own, a family is struggling just to put food on the table.
They also learned how to help those people in their community who are in the midst of such a struggle.
A food drive that involved every student in the school district’s kindergarten-through-12th-grade building raised 5,847 food items, and the students did it all in a week. They began Oct. 24, and by Friday afternoon, the freshman class was busy in the cafeteria boxing all the food for Second Harvest Food Bank — trucks were expected to come collect it.
Each grade level competed to turn in the most food to be allowed a dress-down day during which they don’t have to wear their school uniforms. Winning at the elementary-school level was the sixth grade. The freshman class won at the high-school level.
Throughout the week, the freshmen learned how to advertise, make announcements, write speeches, write press releases and create banners for their cause. They learned about real-world poverty and homelessness while they were learning about business writing and informational texts.
Iberis, who came up with the idea last year, said the food drive is a hands-on way for students to learn that is more interesting than pitching to a made-up audience.
“They made speeches to every class in the school — a real audience,” she said. “They sent letters into the community for donations. They each did a budget activity where they were able to see how easy it is to slip into poverty,” she said.
They even took a field trip to Second Harvest Food Bank.
As the hosts of the project, the freshmen split up into committees, explained ninth-grader Brooke Zackasee.
There was an announcement committee that told students what food item to bring in each day.
A counting committee counted and collected the items in the classrooms.
A banner committee made the promotional banner that hung in the cafeteria.
A group of freshmen girls even went door-to-door in Lowellville, Poland, Struthers and Hubbard to get food donations.
“We really wanted to win ’cause we were hosting it,” said Brooke.
“We worked a lot on public speaking,” said freshman Becky King.
“We’re making a newsletter about [the food drive] for Second Harvest,” said Emily Partika.
The most important lesson, the ninth-graders agreed, was that it is important to give back.
“People don’t realize how easy it is to slip into poverty,” said Emily.
“People can’t afford a home, can’t get their own medicine,” said Cole Baird.
“They’re not just lazy; they’re trying to help themselves,” said Becky.
“Don’t stereotype people,” added Brooke.