With more and more clubs starting up on a yearly basis at Cheshire High School, the student body has a variety of options to invest their time in and discover a passion.
However, while offering different things, many clubs have united this month to give back to their community. On Thursday and Friday, students will stop by houses throughout Cheshire to pick up food, toiletries, and household items for donation to the Cheshire Community Food Pantry on Saturday.
“I would say that it (giving back) is more important than ever,” said senior Lucy Helene. “Along with trying to stay safe in the pandemic, people have lost their jobs and kids are home more with remote learning, so there are added road blocks right now.”
Cheshire Peer Health Educators and the National Honor Society are spearheading the food drive, but they’ve since been joined by Link Crew, Peer Advocates, Cheshire Food Pantry Club, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, and the Student Senate this year.
“When we started off, we didn’t know what to expect,” reflected Helene, a peer health and NHS member. “The support in the community is impressive. We like to have parts of the high school working together.”
In the past four years, CHS students have participated in the Super Market Challenge in which student teams were given $100 and a half-hour to pick up as many items as possible in the store for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry. The boys’ basketball team started the project and then it was opened up to more students last year.
Due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19, the challenge was canceled this year, but students still wanted to make a donation to the food pantry.
“It is really cool to see how our community comes together,” said Helene. “We could have taken the fact that we couldn’t do the Super Market Challenge as a disappointment and moved on, but we found a way to adapt.”
As an alternative, Cheshire clubs chose to spread their reach for this year’s project. To start off, students asked Cheshire’s Lights of Hope for the street information that was used to put luminary bags up around town on Nov. 14.
“We put it into spreadsheet format and then assigned streets to people. We offered up every street in our town,” explained senior NHS member Danielle Hersh.
To gauge people’s interests in making a donation, 93 students signed up to leave flyers on house doors from Dec. 7–9. The flyers had a listing of items that the Cheshire Community Food Pantry is looking to collect this year.
To show their interest in donating, people were asked to leave the flyer on their door through the next day, so that students could come back to their house and leave a bag for them to put items into. For pick up this week, people were asked to leave the bags on their porches.
“The idea was to have non-contact pick up,” stated Helene.
In working on the marketing side, Hersh designed the flyer to be dropped off at houses around Cheshire.
“I’ve always been interested in videography,” said Hersh, who did work on the virtual college affair this year. “I’m more interested in the video and photographer side, but I will gladly work on the business side.”
Also for the food drive, the committee member team of Helene, Hersh, Nadia Bauco, Connor DeLaubell, Grace Downing, Ashley Jeon, Kelly Margolies, and Grace Yu designed a video to show students what the project would entail. With Cheshire Peer Health Educators being an elective course at CHS, Helene went to her classmates to see who could help with the production.
“Of course, everyone was willing to help,” recalled Helene. “I made a script and then assigned everyone lines. They filmed parts and sent them in.”
While the food drive has been run by students, faculty have also contributed to the project, including Mary Flood, who designed the logo and put stickers on bags with library media co-worker Ann Wellspeak.
“I’ve found that students and teachers are still just as motivated to help other people,” stated Helene, of planning in the pandemic. “They are coming up with ideas to make this (project) the best it can be.”
In a collective effort, students will head around town today and tomorrow to pick up food drive donations from houses. On Saturday, donations will be brought to CHS to be sorted from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“For those who didn’t get a bag before, we are welcoming people to drop off items on Saturday,” said physical education teacher Dan Lee. “There will be signs to direct them where they need to go.”
Lee said that four to five Cheshire sports teams have signed up to organize the drop-off.
“I think it is great. It shows that a wide-range of students are participating in it,” said Lee, who coaches the CHS boys’ basketball and boys’ golf teams. “Because of the pandemic, a lot of teams haven’t been able to do as many community service projects, so when I mentioned this to coaches, they were excited about it.”
By this point in the school year, Cheshire Peer Health Educators have usually completed three or four projects, but because of the limitations brought on by the pandemic, this is the first thing they are doing together.
“I was happy to just go out and do something,” reflected Helene.
Guided by Lee at CHS, peer health students organize events and activities based around leadership. Before the pandemic, the students planned the Cheshire Unified Basketball Tournament and the Ryan T. Lee Memorial Foundation’s Excellence in Leadership Conference, among other things.
“Every year different students come in, but the common thing is that they all give back to the community. They enjoy doing it,” explained Lee.
While having already worked on the virtual college fair, the National Honor Society is also happy for the food drive to be their first hands-on activity this year. Under the guidance of Donna Carbone and Holly Skrzyniarz, the group does five to 10 projects per school year, including a food drive, a winter clothing drive, and leadership initiatives.
“Last year, we were one of the few clubs who tried to do things,” said Skrzyniarz, who teaches social studies. “We did a project called Cards Against Corona where they (the students) dedicated cards to health care workers.”
Since CHS is combining in-person instruction and remote learning in a hybrid model this year, the students have used Zoom and Google Meet to coordinate things when they can’t be in school at the same time.
“The kids have done a great job of keeping the lines of communication open,” stated Carbone, who works as an English teacher.
Even when the pandemic ends, faculty members and clubs have stated that they are interested in combining efforts on more projects going forward.