A lesson in charity

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.

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