By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
FULTON, Ill. —
Students at Fulton High School are going above and beyond to provide a merry Christmas for all.
STAND TALL, a new student organization aimed at helping others and making a difference in the community, collected hundreds of food items and winter supplies to donate to local organizations.
“It’s nice to think of someone else during the holidays and be able to give them something,” student Kylie Green said. “We have so much, it’s important to help those who aren’t as privileged.”
All 372 food items collected through their food drive were divided between Fulton and Albany food pantries. A pillowcase full with hats, scarves and mittens was gathered from the group’s mitten tree and was donated to the Kiwanis to fill Christmas baskets for children.
“As the holiday season kicks into gear, it is important to take time and be thankful for the roof over our heads, the clothes on our back, and the food on our plates,” Science Teacher and organizer for the group Jennifer Pepper said.
STAND TALL stands for students, teachers and neighbors developing tolerance and leadership lessons. The new student- driven organization was spearheaded by Pepper and has seen tremendous growth since it started in September. What started as a small group of less than 10 juniors and seniors has nearly doubled and now represents all grade levels.
“I think a lot of the freshmen want to join because it’s a cool thing to do,” Green said. “As juniors and seniors we have been able to set an example and hopefully it continues to grow.”
The student-driven group plans special themes for each month, often based on national movements, along with programs and activities to accompany those themes. September was about self-improvement and self-awareness followed by bullying prevention month in October and youth homelessness awareness in November.
Activities and events include leading a special assembly for Stomp Out Bullying Day, dress for success day, National Roof Over Your Head Day and more. In addition to helping homeless youths, they have also encouraged fellow students to take an anti-bullying pledge and sign a banner to show their support.
“We really look forward to helping people out and making a difference,” member Amy Barzgari said.
Those who participated in the food drive got their name put on “Santa’s List” and were able to celebrate their good deed by wearing a santa hat on Dec. 14. Next year the group plans to team up with Student Council and Key Club to make it an even bigger success. And the staff and community are taking notice of the good deeds by the determined students.
“The kids are very accepting and willing to help out,” Pepper said. “Staff have come up to us and thanked us for what we have been doing.”