Hillcrest student officers lead school community to support Big Brothers Big SistersMar 08, 2023 01:10PM ● By Julie Slama
Hillcrest High students raised funds that will go to help the mentoring program at Big Brothers Big Sisters. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Even though they had squeamish looks on their faces, Hillcrest High administrators kept their word and swallowed some crickets to help raise funds for the school’s winter fundraiser.
Faculty joined in the effort, taking a pie to the face or getting their legs shaved, all for money that was donated to the cause.
Hillcrest High’s student leaders planned and organized several activities and events that kept donations rolling in during December, all earmarked for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah. In a social media post, the nonprofit thanked Hillcrest students who donated $20,074.54 for their “incredibly hard work” to support their mission of mentoring youth.
In 2021, 968 Utah elementary through high school students were served and 65 are currenting waiting for a mentor, according to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah website. About 80% live in poverty, 60% are identified as kids of color, more than 45% live in single-parent households and 10% have an incarcerated parent.
Hillcrest High Principal Greg Leavitt said Big Brothers Big Sisters was an organization that “resonated with our community. We had a unified effort of our kids and community to help them and it built school spirit and inclusion. The SBOs really worked hard to give to people who could really benefit.”
Much of the winter fundraiser for Big Brothers Big Sisters rested with Hillcrest student body officer and class leaders.
“We decided our goals matched up with theirs and then we brainstormed some events that we thought would raise the most money and be fun for students at the same time,” student body president Kaleolani Kirby said. “We had two or three of us in charge of each event, taking the lead on the planning and contacting whoever, the advertising, all the coordination and logistics. But when it came to helping at the event, it was all of us doing whatever we could to make it happen.”
There were several schoolwide tournaments; a game night of volleyball, Spikeball, Super Smash Bros and trivia; a Polar Express-themed night of babysitting 25 local children which included a visit from St. Nick; a formal school dance; and other activities all with funds going toward Big Brothers Big Sisters. Students also sold concessions at games to make money for the fundraiser as well as collections at the opening and closing assemblies.
Several area businesses supported the students by holding spirit nights, donating a portion of the proceeds to Big Brothers Big Sisters. Even neighbors got involved contributing to the fundraiser when students came to perform odd jobs for them.
“We did a business blitz where we went to businesses around Hillcrest asking for donations or if they wanted to donate gift cards and put them together in a basket, where teachers could bid on it,” she said.
Student body officers’ adviser Shannon Hurst said several of those activities brought in large portions of the $20,000-plus that was contributed. She said that the winter formal tickets brought in about $6,000, followed by about $3,500 from donations at opening and closing assemblies; $2,000 from the faculty raffle; $1,900 from odd job contributions; and $800 from business donations.
Additional funds came in from sweatshirt sales and “save or shave,” where students put in money to either save or shave a classmate’s hair.
Kirby, who has donated clothing items to Big Brothers Big Sisters, said she’d like to be a Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor.
“It means more when you’re doing service and really connecting with people who can benefit and you can really see the change that it makes,” she said. “By doing this fundraiser, it’s helped increase involvement at school and in our community. It’s a great feeling that comes when you see all these students be able to work toward a big goal and know how it’s going to help others.”
During the fundraiser, Kirby said student leaders were at school from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
“It is hard to balance the fundraiser with school as we were crazy busy, but it also was cool to all our planning and work turn out to see the increased student involvement and spirit,” she said. “I love the big events where all the students are together. As student government leaders, we’re super invested, and want to see others enjoy their high school experience. This and Burning of the H have been some of my favorite things we’ve done this year, because it’s all about Hillcrest and Husky pride.”
Kirby began her involvement in student government serving as freshmen secretary.
“I was shy and quiet going into freshman year, so I challenged myself to be outside my comfort zone. Being student body president is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but also the most rewarding. I’ve never really saw myself as a leader. I knew I was a really hard worker, but I told myself, I can do this even though I was nervous. It’s been cool to grow into my potential more and connect with some students or groups that I probably wouldn’t have had the chance,” she said.
Kirby, who has played soccer four years for the Huskies, has been able to become more involved at school as well. Student leaders often attend or volunteer at events for different clubs, sports and departments.
“I love being able to go to school events and then, see people through the halls and talk to them and have the connections I have with my teachers,” she said.
Kirby also has become a more familiar face this year as a SBO-filmed TikTok featured Kirby and went viral, getting 2 million views worldwide.
“That was fun, and we had a great turnout at that away football game at Jordan (High). I think with Instagram and Tik Tok and other social media platforms, we’ve been able to advertise and highlight our events, and we’re seeing a lot more student involvement because of that,” she said. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how to recognize people’s strengths, how to delegate to them and make people feel valued. It can be a hard task to take 14 individuals who all are involved and have important contributions, and mold us into an effective delegation. Once we came together, we were able to do a lot for the student body. We have a year-long spirit bowl that has really united us and boosted student involvement this year.”
Involving students in activities and the fundraiser also was a goal of senior class president Carissa Jameson.
“We found a lot of creative ways to get people to help in a cause that we were all really invested in,” she said. “Through all these activities, it has been a good way to bring people together and help raise people up.”
One of Jameson’s favorite fundraising activities was volunteering for odd jobs in exchange for fundraiser donations. It ranged from wrapping gifts to painting a room in a house.
“We asked them if there was anything we could do. My group cleaned up a yard, decorated their tree and put up lights,” she said.
While it was students versus faculty in basketball for the opening assembly, the closing assembly featured the top two dodgeball teams facing off.
“We had a lot of students get involved in those activities and there were a lot of people cheering them on; it was pretty cool,” she said.
Jameson said as senior class president, it has been rewarding.
“It’s opened a lot of different opportunities for me and I’m able to meet a lot of new people,” she said. “One of my favorite things has been to help people with this fundraiser. I think we had a big impact on Big Brothers Big Sisters with our donation, and on the students, through creating more school spirit. I’m trying to make the most of the experience and not just for myself, but to make the world better for all of us. When we work together, we’re able to accomplish a lot of great things.”