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Midvale Journal

Local high schools pool together to help area families, International Rescue Committee

Feb 01, 2021 12:33PM ● By Julie Slama

Scheels donated $500 to each school—Hillcrest, Jordan and Brighton—to help the high schools raise more than $35,000 to help local families and give to the International Rescue Committee. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Hurst/Hillcrest High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Every year, many area high school students decide on a charity or nonprofit organization to help or raise funds for during the month leading up to the winter break.

This year, three local high schools—Hillcrest, Jordan and Brighton—collaborated to bring awareness and raise more than $35,000 together for the International Rescue Committee.

IRC in Salt Lake City helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future, said Jesse Sheets, IRC development manager, who added that since 1994, when IRC opened in Salt Lake City, they have helped more than 12,000 individuals.

“We are grateful for any student-led initiatives, including the effort of Hillcrest High School in collaboration with Jordan High School and Brighton High School,” Sheets said. “Student-led fundraisers bring together large, diverse student bodies and their communities, unified behind a focused effort to raise awareness of refugee resettlement in Utah as well as raise vital funds in support of over 20 programs and services offered by the IRC in Salt Lake City and in direct support of the more than 2,100 refugees, asylees, immigrants and new Americans we serve each year.”

The idea to support IRC together came about after studentbody president Max Lapore talked to 

Hillcrest administrators, then he reached out to the other two schools to join efforts in their IRC fundraising campaign.

“We wanted to plan activities together, but this year has just been crazy,” he said. “We’d talk and they’d be shut down because of a high count of COVID cases and then when their high schools opened, we were closed for the same reason. So, we decided just to fundraise at our own schools, but share what events we could do, like holding restaurant nights where proceeds would benefit the IRC.”

While the schools worked together and pooled their donations, early in their efforts, a $500 donation to each of the three schools came from Scheels.

“It’s actually kind of ironic that we got the donation since I work at Scheels, but I hadn’t asked for it. I know they have donated gift cards for things, but not a straight-out donation like this,” Lapore said.

Jordan High studentbody president Brooklyn Wagner said that it was Scheels who reached out to the high school students.

“It was generous of them to contact us,” she said. “It’s pretty cool that we all came together to raise money for the IRC.”

While many of the usual activities Hillcrest students do during the winter campaign weren’t able to be held during this year because of the health guidelines for the pandemic, they found new ways to incentivize donations.

“We weren’t able to perform odd jobs in trade for donations, but we did share with the community about what IRC does and how they could support them through our efforts,” Lapore said. “We had some in-school activities such as holding an auction for parking spots and paying the SBO officers to do some dares.”

Student body officer adviser Shannon Hurst said SBOs offered to eat things such as “gross condiments, crickets or ghost peppers,” or boys would wax their legs and a teacher offered to wax his head when donations reached a set level.

“We followed guidelines to a T and played it safe,” Hurst said about trying to fundraise during the pandemic. “It was difficult because in a normal year, we could have had traditional activities and invited schools to compete against each other, but we couldn’t do that this year. It was important that we did do this; we know a lot of our students are refugees and we saw value in doing it.”

While the three schools earmarked some funds to help students in need in their own community, Lapore said the IRC also helps Hillcrest families.

“We have a lot of refugees in the Hillcrest community and we were able to share with our student body how they have benefited from the IRC and how it changes their lives,” he said. “I like the idea of sharing and working together with the other schools on a charity. It’s a hard time with so many people struggling financially, mentally, emotionally and we know for those who can serve and give, it’s a great thing they can do in today’s world.”

Brighton studentbody president Will Rahaniotis agreed.

“It means a lot to help others any way we can, especially this year during a year of a worldwide pandemic with natural disasters and a need for humanitarian help,” he said. “I think if we all just think of seeing someone’s face react when they’re handed a check or something they need, that gives a lot of meaning to this.”

Nearby Alta High and Corner Canyon High also held fundraisers to help children’s wishes be granted through the Make-A-Wish foundation. Cottonwood High held events to raise funds to help stock their school pantry and Murray High fundraised to help the YWCA shelter.