By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
Students at Wheatland Elementary School deserved a big pat on the back this week when they packed up thousands of donations – an unprecedented amount in the school’s history – for the WE Scare Hunger initiative.
The Grade 6A and B classes spearheaded the initiative, which raised 2,813 donations throughout the school for the Wheatland County Food Bank and the Strathmore & District Christmas Hamper Society.
“I don’t know if it’s a sign of an improved economy, but our school population has remained the same,” said Associate Principal Michelle Rushford at Wheatland Elementary School, which has 400 students.
“We normally set a goal of 3,000 and normally we don’t get anywhere near it. When you just tell (the students) to bring a can of food, they don’t really get it. But when they’re part of it and really talk about where the food is going and imagine if it was you, I think it really helps them get that deeper understanding and appreciation for what they have and for helping others.”
Three years ago, the school entered into a partnership with Strathmore Ford and the WE Scare Hunger program, which is a venture of WE Schools. While the school collected items in various categories – hygiene, desserts, pasta, canned goods and wish-list – to be donated to the Wheatland County Food Bank, the school donates the hygiene and wish-list boxes to the Strathmore & District Christmas Hamper Society.
For the third year in a row, Ford employees and the Grade 6 students loaded up two trucks with boxes. However, the local auto dealership expanded the partnership to come full circle by donating money back to the institution each year. In the first year, the monetary donation aided in the creation of the school’s mission statement on the side of the building. Yet for the past two years, the money – a $1,000 cheque this year – has been pledged to the hot lunch program.
“It’s a great community event to support and I do believe the food bank actually really needs the help, so that’s why we do it,” said Shawn Dinner, general manager with Strathmore Ford. “It’s a Ford initiative across Canada. They’ve tried to get a lot of dealerships to do it, and it’s a voluntary option, but we think it’s good for the community. The kids love it, it gets them involved and helps out others.”
The venture ties in harmoniously with Wheatland Elementary School’s Leader in Me initiative. Despite having successfully hosted food drives in the past, this year’s Grade 6 classes are knocking it out of the park, not only with large donations – collecting 253 items in the Grade 6A classroom in one day alone – but also taking on more WE initiatives than before.
The eager students want to get involved in WE Create Change, WE are silent and partner up with eco-avengers, do a walk for clean water, initiate a battery recycling program and host a bake sale for change.
“I think that by raising all of the items, we’ve helped Strathmore be a better place to live in because we don’t have so many people who are hungry and are asking for more, because they don’t have enough,” said Grade 6 student Ayden Preston, treasurer with the student leadership council.
“You kind of know about it more when you teach it to other people. So when we were talking about it to all these other classrooms, I feel like we got more engaged and knew more of what was happening.”
Student Leadership Council president Parker Riou and Vice-president Megan Kirkpatrick agreed, adding that being a part of the process has created motivation to take on more projects and to give back. While the highlight of the experience was going to WE Day, the students said they were proud of the items collected, and dedicated the success to having spread the word around school and having raised more awareness.
Wheatland Elementary School is still accepting items at the school before the Strathmore & District Christmas Hamper Society picks up the boxes mid November, in hopes of reaching their 3,000-item goal.
“It’s been a beautiful partnership and a win-win for sure,” said Rushford. “They’re a very enthusiastic group this year. We talk about students being the leaders of tomorrow, but we truly believe they’re leaders of today. They’re ready now; you can see that. It’s so exciting to watch that. We just live it every day here.”