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posted: 2/7/2010 12:01 AM

Lake County students learning compassion from helping Haiti

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  • Rockland fourth-grader Caroline Phagan, left, and Butterfield School fourth-grader Erin Rooney spent three hours selling "Hot Chocolate for Haiti" in a Libertyville neighborhood.

      Rockland fourth-grader Caroline Phagan, left, and Butterfield School fourth-grader Erin Rooney spent three hours selling "Hot Chocolate for Haiti" in a Libertyville neighborhood.
    /Libertyville Elementary District 70

 
By Vincent Pierri

In the aftermath of the enormous Haitian earthquake, students across Lake County are learning lessons that transcend reading, writing and arithmetic.

Educators say the disaster has opened opportunities for the kids to turn their compassion into action.

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Antioch Upper Grade School Principal Jim Kallieris said his students are getting an education in empathy.

"They are learning compassion and selflessness," he said. "They are putting themselves in the shoes of those in need. It's really amazing how they keep coming to us and saying, 'What can we do about this?'"

The Antioch school's students have a "Pennies from Heaven" drive going and are creating "Love Packs" with essential supplies among other efforts, Kallieris said.

Dozens of fundraising events have been popping up weekly at area schools. The ideas are being generated by the students, teachers say.

Students at Mechanics Grove in Mundelein are having a "Math-a-lon for Haiti". There's a "Hearts for Haiti" event at Spencer Loomis School in Hawthorn Woods. Libertyville Elementary District 70 students have collected clothes and set up hot chocolate stands to earn relief cash.

Adler Park School Principal Janet Brownlie said the images coming from the scene have really opened the eyes of the students at the Libertyville school.

"Actually seeing kids that are the same age as them has really been impacting," Brownlie said. "Some of them are realizing how much they have and how little others have. They are seriously excited about helping. They can't wait to drop their change in the collection cans. It's amazing."

All that loose change is adding up. The totals raised are impressive.

Issac Fox students in Lake Zurich raised $3,000 in just two days. Stevenson High School students collected more than $5,000.

Officials at the American Cross of Greater Chicago say donations from school fundraisers make up a significant portion of their collections. At least half of the 120 Red Cross related fundraisers started since the quake happened have been organized by schools.

"It's obvious that school kids have really stepped up to help," said Red Cross spokeswoman Carly Franks. "There are benefits on multiple fronts. Not only is the money critical to the relief effort, teachers can use the opportunity to teach about the country of Haiti and about the importance of looking at the needs beyond their own community."

Teachers say watching the students spring into action is heartwarming.

Fairhaven Elementary School teacher Wendy Dailey said she was touched by an e-mail sent by her first grade student Noah Briere. The simple plea was sure to tug the heartstrings of those who read the note from the Mundelein student.

"I am collecting bottled water for all the children in Haiti. They had a terrible earthquake and don't have any water to drink. This will make them sick," Briere wrote. "Please, if you could bring any bottled water to my house we will have it delivered to all the children who are thirsty and sick."

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