A Class Act

A Class Act

What do silly hats, sweet snacks and casual Fridays have to do with education? As it turns out, a lot. 

For one group of upperclassmen in the village, those three things are at the heart of a month-long lesson in working together to help a worthy cause and accomplish a meaningful goal. 

In what has become a much-anticipated altruistic tradition at Silver Creek High School, seniors in teacher Kristen Foley’s Government class collaborated to bring cheer to a local veteran and their family this holiday season. 

“It’s a lesson in civics, community and compassion,” says Foley, who helped facilitate a three-pronged fundraising effort for the Adopt-a-Veteran program through WNY Heroes Inc., which supports veterans in the region by providing financial assistance plus access to services and resources. “Everyone has a specific role and we work together -- and separately -- to ensure a happier holiday season for a family in our region.” 

Dozens of 12th-graders organized a Hat Day, wherein staff and students were encouraged to don festive headwear throughout the school day for a donation of $1, and an accompanying Bake Sale in early December (Friday, Dec. 7, 2018). Loads of chocolate-dipped pretzels, cupcakes, cookies with festive sprinkles and gooey brownies sold out in about two hours. In addition, proceeds from the district’s staff dress-down fundraiser that Friday – something facilitated weekly by staff member Shannon Karcz of the Parent Teacher Student Association – went to the Adopt-A-Veteran fund. 

“We love seeing younger adults getting involved,” said Chris Kreiger Sr., the president and co-founder of WNYHeroes Inc. and a veteran of the Iraq War. “We feel it is important for kids today to learn and understand that the freedoms they have come at an expense of others giving their lives for it.” 

In one day, the seniors raised $332, which was split among three groups of shoppers who then budgeted, researched sales and went out to purchase the gifts. The presents were wrapped by another group of seniors before being loaded into a bus Dec. 20 for delivery to WNYHeroes Inc. for distribution to the family. 

“Many kids today also have at least one family member who served, past/present,” noted Kreiger, who expressed his gratitude to all of the Silver Creek staff, children and parents for supporting area veterans. “Hopefully from working with us they have a better understanding of what their loved one might be dealing with after returning home from the front lines.” 

Although the military family recipients remain anonymous (their identity and hometown are never revealed), the seniors got a feel for their likes, needs and interests through their wish lists. 

Senior Mackenzie Schmidt, who helped man the bake sale table and shopped for items on the veteran family’s wish list, says working with her Government classmates was a great experience. 

“The family that we were paired up with stays anonymous for personal reasons. All we knew was that their was a veteran family in need for a few gifts this Christmas and we were very excited to help. We all paired up into groups each group had specific items to get on the family’s wish list.” 

Members of the Class of 2019 who participated in the effort are: Teddy Braidich, Kianna Brown, Jon Cotton, Jaeleigh Cruz, Nik Dawley, Savanna Dawley, Tyler Deet, Justin Didas, Sebastian Dole, Steven Flick, Isabel Hernandez, Andrew Hill, Haley Kennedy, Lily League, Jessica Lennon, Aneyshka Molina-Ruiz, Andrea Olsen, Mary Reagle, Elias Rivera, Mackenzie Schmidt, Lillian Shuart, Amaya Slaght, McKenna Steklasa, and Braeden Woleben.

“We cannot say thank you enough to all of Silver Creek staff, children and parents for supporting us and walking this journey hand in hand,” said Kreiger. “Thank you for believing in us.” 

For the students involved in the effort, it’s a life lesson they’ll treasure long after they graduate. 

“This was definitely an experience that I will carry with me forever knowing that a family in our community who has served our country and protected us will have an amazing Christmas,” said Mackenzie.

This story was also published in the Christmas Day edition of The Observer newspaper of Dunkirk, N.Y. Read that version here.