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Shaler Area elementary students help hurricane victims clean up

| Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Shaler Area elementary students collecting and sorting cleaning supplies to be sent to Hurricane Harvey victims.
Shaler Area elementary students collecting and sorting cleaning supplies to be sent to Hurricane Harvey victims.

Within one week, Shaler Area Elementary School students collected and filled 79 five-gallon buckets with cleaning supplies for Hurricane Harvey survivors.

The school's Student Ambassadors leadership group initiated a supply drive when Kristen Kotsko, mother of club member Lindsey Caplan, informed them that Texas residents needed buckets and tools for cleaning up flood-damaged areas.

“My mom knew someone who is a priest at a church and they knew someone in Houston that is a priest at a church and they were asking for clean-up buckets for people that were affected by Hurricane Harvey,” Caplan said during an Oct. 10 school board meeting, part of which honored the club members, all sixth-graders.

Andy Sieber, Student Ambassadors adviser and school counselor, said the students crafted morning announcements soliciting donations and distributed flyers about the project during school curriculum nights.

The group invited the entire student body and faculty to get involved.

“Within two days they had a pallet of five-gallon buckets donated by Erich Salac, stepfather of a fourth-grader. Entire classrooms ‘sponsored a bucket' to collect all of the needed cleaning supplies to fill it, including brushes, sponges, gloves, dust masks, cleaning solutions and trash bags,” Bethany Baker, district communications specialist, said.

Students Logan Peterson and Matt Kennan said that the ambassadors volunteered during their lunches to sort the items, so that each bucket had the necessary materials needed for a clean-up kit.

“We wanted people that didn't have this stuff to have this stuff because it all got ruined,” student Jocelyn Zillweger said. “And if they wanted to get something at the dollar store, they didn't have a dollar store. It was under water.”

MacKenzy Miooer said they wanted to donate useful items to those in Texas because “all the water washed away most of their homes and their belongings.”

The students took this task seriously and the results speak volumes about their effort.

“I was shocked at how much the kids did. They did an amazing job,” Kotsko said.

During the board meeting, Superintendent Sean Aiken asked the ambassadors what they had learned from the experience.

“We should always be thankful for what we have. Even when people don't have stuff, we always think, ‘Oh, I need this, but people might need it more than we need it,'” said Aleice Milcic.

Sieber said the club formed as an evolution of the “Titan Pride” initiative, which encourages each student to have a “positive attitude, respect for all, integrity, (to) do the right thing (and make an) effort toward learning. The 19 students selected as ambassadors underwent leadership training and regularly met during their lunch and free periods. Members previously provided incoming fourth-graders with elementary-school tours, constructed signage offering guidance for parents visiting the school and collected coats for North Hills Community Outreach.

“We're proud of the work that you're doing,” Aiken told the students. “We know that these leadership skills and service skills that you're doing now in elementary school are going to translate to great things, not only for our district, but for you collectively as you move forward.”

Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.

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