John Hersey High School Students Provide Year-Round Philanthropy Opportunities
By Kayleigh Padar
John Hersey High School just finished their annual St. Baldrick’s Day project, an event which provides students the opportunity to shave their heads to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer. However, this is far from the first time students have given back to the community this year. This project alone has seen the Hersey community donate almost $115,000 to help find a cure for pediatric cancer.
“High School students have an incredibly unique ability to affect children and senior citizens. Children look up to the SOS students and Senior Citizens feel a genuine youthful spirit,” SOS leader Mark Gunther said.
In this past year, some of the major service projects that have taken place include the annual Food Drive and a fundraising campaign to help build a home for an injured military veteran. On a different scale, the SOS club (Service Over Self), which has 350-400 members, has been working all year on smaller projects to provide for specifically targeted areas of the community. For example, the Love Bus project sends hundreds of students on busses to local homes for the elderly to entertain and spread joy.
“I think everybody has different passions and life experiences that lead them towards different causes. This creates the diverse group of charities that Hersey students participate in,” said John Dyer, Assistant Student Council Director and co-organizer of the food drive. The food drive, held each year before Thanksgiving, routinely collects upwards of 45,000 food items and $2,000 that goes towards helping Hersy families and stocking local food pantries for the holidays.
“I want all students to know that no matter what their background, they have a gift to share with others. When students participate, they realize they can make a difference,” SOS leader Mark Gunther said.
Most schools provide opportunities to give back to the community in service, but the students are the ones that have to take advantage. “I have seem amazing awakenings in so many students who have stretched themselves to serve others and have found their passion in life. High school students have an incredibly unique ability to affect children and senior citizens,” Gunther said.
“Being as fortunate as we are, it is important to give back to others. Community service isn’t difficult. Every little thing we can do to make someone else’s day better is important,” junior Caroline Stiefbold said.
Philanthropy has always been a part of the culture of Hersey, dating all the way back to the opening of the building in 1967. John Hersey, the school’s namesake, was recognized as a public figure who gave back to his community. Similarly, the SOS club has been around since 1967.
However, it isn't only the spirit of philanthropy that inspires students to give back to the community. The administration of the building has actively encouraged introducing new service projects, most recently when english teacher Jim Miks brought up the idea of raising money for A Soldier’s Journey Home. In its short three-year existence at the school, this program has raised over $75,000 towards building a home for an injured military veteran. This year’s home is being built in Spring Grove, Illinois for Spc. Tony Chobanov and his family. Hersey students, along with others from District 214, have been involved in raising funds, designing the home, and will help with the build this coming spring.
These efforts are just a few of the projects that shows the caring spirts of the Hersey Community.