The spirit of the holiday season is giving. The students and staff at Community High School District 94 in West Chicago understand the value of giving back to the community that supports them. While charitable activities occurred during the holiday season, the culture of giving at Community High School extends throughout the year.
This holiday season, the giving began with our annual Turkey Costume Caper just before Thanksgiving. Students voted to select a few teachers who would compete against each other for the privilege of wearing a Turkey costume. The competition? Donations from students to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. More than $400 was raised, and the student council matched the efforts of the students, sending a check to the society for $825. Science teacher Hank Murphy was this year's turkey costume-wearing winner, having collected the most student donations.
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On Dec. 9, students in our Advancement via Individual Determination classes and Community Leadership class assisted with a food truck from the Northern Illinois Food Depository at Pioneer Elementary School provided by the District 33 teachers. Students helped to unload the truck and then assisted families by carrying boxes of food to their cars. These students also assisted with the Red Cross' Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign by creating and signing holiday cards for veterans, military families and active-duty service members at hospitals and installations around the world. And if the AVID students weren't busy enough, they also collected holiday socks for project Mistle-Toes; they delivered more than 340 pairs of holiday socks on Dec. 18 to the pediatric department at Central DuPage Hospital. (AVID is a college readiness system that is designed to increase schoolwide learning and performance.)
The CHS Gigging Orchestra spent Dec. 9 spreading the holiday cheer when they went to Central DuPage Hospital to play for their resident pediatric patients.
The Future Business Leaders of America hosted a variety show, "Take Your Seat and Tweet," on Dec. 12. Some of the proceeds from the event were donated to the March of Dimes.
The drama department gathered supplies for the tornado-affected drama students at Washington High School in Washington, Ill. They also provided books and materials for the students at our feeder schools: Benjamin Middle School in Benjamin Elementary District 25, Leman Middle School in West Chicago Elementary District 33, and Winfield Central School in Winfield Elementary District 34.
National Honor Society students invited children in kindergarten through fifth grade to Winter Fest on Dec. 14. The free family event offered games, activities and prizes for all.
The Interact Club is a student community service organization working year-round to motivate and involve the general school population in benefit projects. Club members assisted the West Chicago Park District with its Breakfast with Santa and conducted a winter clothing drive, collecting children's clothing and winter jackets, hats, gloves and scarves. All items were given to the West Chicago Food Pantry.
In the special education department, the READY classes (for students with behavioral and emotional challenges) made a $50 donation and collected 35 bags of food to benefit Feed My Starving Children. Students in those classes also collected toys for the Toys for Tots campaign. And the students shopped at a book sale, wrapped the books and delivered them to dual-language kindergarten students at Gary Elementary School in District 33. Students passed out the presents, then sat and read with the kindergarten students.
And several groups fed families during the holiday season. The girls' basketball program volunteered at the Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva during winter break. The Sole Steppers, student rhythmic dancing performers, raised money to feed a family through Jewel/Osco. And Skills USA, a leadership and skill development club, hosted its annual food drive to benefit the Humanitarian Service Project, collecting more than 1,200 cans of food from students and staff.
Service to others is a hallmark of our school's identity; it is interwoven into the curriculum and is evident throughout extracurricular programs. Our students and staff do not just talk about community; they live community and understand the value of giving back for what is given to them. We continue to grow and expand our community partnerships to show our students the importance of belonging to and being involved with their community on a personal level.
We hope you experienced the joy of giving during the holidays. Wishing you and yours a happy new year!
• Douglas Domeracki is superintendent of Community High School District 94 in West Chicago. His column appears monthly during the school year.