This week, we highlight local high school students who have taken it upon themselves to make a difference in the community.
COR JESU ACADEMY
Seven days. That’s all the time it took for Cor Jesu Academy students to raise $36,000 for four deserving charities. Each February, the entire school looks forward to Penny Queen, a week-long fundraising competition between the classes, which has taken place since the ’90s. “It’s very much a tradition, as well as a reminder to everyone that because we’re given so much, we have so much to give,” says senior Ani Haroian, VP of Cor Jesu’s Student Council executive board.
The effort begins in December when students nominate a charity to be one of the recipients, and a vote determines the top four. Each class is represented by a team of three students, who organize the events and money-making ideas. At the end of the campaign, the team from the class that raised the most money will be named ‘Penny Queen,’ when totals are announced at the dance. “It’s a fun competition, but at the end, we just want to see a big number up there to help the charities,” Ani says. “We want to see how high we can raise that bar.”
From bake sales and customized clothing to Italian dinner nights and Donkeyball, each year, students come up with new and creative ways to raise money, all while maintaining the “focus on who we’re helping. We’re doing it for a greater cause,” Ani notes.
While most of the money will go to the four chosen organizations, some is also divided among other Cor Jesu charitable activities. The causes aided by Penny Queen often hold personal meaning to students, and that amplifies the enthusiasm for the annual fundraiser, Ani says. “We might not be changing the world, but we’re definitely helping a lot.”
Blake Adamson knows how important cancer research is. The sophomore at Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School was diagnosed two years ago with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and while he is now in remission, he is doing his part to help those not as fortunate. For the second year in a row, Blake led the MICDS fundraising team for Pedal the Cause. “There are not that many opportunities at our age where you can make a difference in the community,” he says. “So to be involved in this has been great.”
MICDS had more than 100 riders—students, parents and family members—in the October bike ride, which raises money for cancer research at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Siteman Cancer Center. “With the size of our team, it was nice to be able to see people you knew all along the 25- mile ride,” Blake says.
Through the efforts of Blake and his fellow MICDS riders, the ‘Rams Ride’ team was one of the top contributors to Pedal the Cause, raising $30,973 through donations and a bike raffle.
With two more years at MICDS, Blake plans to continue to lead the Rams Ride team, and increase the support from his fellow students and school community. “People were really excited to participate this year, and hopefully we can raise even more money next year.”
When Theresa Goodwillie returned from volunteering at the Whole Kids Outreach summer camp in Ellington, Mo., the Ursuline Academy student knew she wanted to do more. An annual holiday toy drive, started by Theresa six years ago, became a family effort, with her sisters, Rebecca and Sarah, each assuming the organizational responsibilities in turn. “Theresa just realized how underprivileged the kids at camp were, and without this, they wouldn’t really have a Christmas,” says Sarah Goodwillie, a junior at the high school.
Each summer, 10 students are picked to help out for a week at the camp, which aims to help children living in poverty in the Missouri bootheel. When those students return to school in the fall, they share personal testimonies that encourage the rest of the school to participate in the toy drive. Sarah now runs the event, the 10th grade class helps to distribute fliers throughout the Kirkwood and Glendale community. From November until early December, new toys are collected at Ursuline, as well as Glendale City Hall. “Last year, we collected almost 550 items, and we hope to collect more this year,” Sarah says.
Whole Kids will then include the toys in its Christmas store, where parents can get presents for their children in exchange for a small fee or service, so “they don’t feel like it’s just a handout,” Sarah explains. The Ursuline toy drive is one of the largest contributors to Whole Kids’ store.
Sarah is the last Goodwillie sister at the school, but she is confident the leadership of the toy drive will easily pass on to another student who will help to enrich the lives of children in need. “It’s all for the benefit of the kids. We’re just trying to make things better.”