MAYVILLE - Through several seasonal service projects, students and staff at Chautauqua Lake Central School, along with members of the larger community, recently teamed up to support those in need.
"It is amazing to see the generosity and graciousness coming forth from the Chautauqua Lake community, staff and students," Principal Josh Liddell said. "Our students have shown that they sincerely care for their friends and fellow classmates and understand the power of giving. The true meaning of the holiday season shines bright at Chautauqua Lake."
The annual Community Christmas Project is a longstanding effort coordinated by members of the National Honor Society. Through its food drive, its own fundraising and gifts from staff and community members, the organization "adopted" 52 children in 20 families, providing Christmas gifts for each, along with a carton of food for the family. NHS advisors Tim Cowan and Tara Reyda say their students are especially grateful to Steve Senske and Farm Fresh Foods for their continued support of this annual project.
Chautauqua Lake Central School students in grades 7-12 were invited to pay $2 for the privilege of wearing a hat to school to support a fellow student who is spending the holiday season in the hospital, awaiting surgery. Members of the Sources of Strength group organized the fundraiser to provide gifts for their classmate and to help defray travel expenses for the family. Additional contributions were received from staff members throughout the school, reported advisors Steven Johnston and Josh Liddell. Modeling their hats are, from left to right, Catherine Meadows, Kourtney Shearer, Sarah Biekarck, Jenelle Senske, Katherine Syper and Abby Andriaccio.
Peer Educators, acting as "Aili's Angels," invited students in grades nine through 12 to make cards for those facing health challenges this holiday season. Advisors Emily Perkins and Ashley Muscarella reported that 100 handmade cards were sent to pediatric patients at Roswell Park Cancer Institute. They were delivered by Chautauqua Lake student Aili Makuch, who has been away from school since last spring while she receives treatments at Roswell. Makuch had previously received financial support from a school-wide fundraising effort to help defray medical costs.
More handmade cards were delivered to another classmate who is in the hospital for several weeks, awaiting surgery. In another project to support that student, members of the Sources of Strength organization sponsored a Hat Day in grades seven through 12. Each student was invited to wear a hat in school and contribute $2 to a fund to provide gifts for their classmate and to help defray travel expenses for the family. Additional contributions were received from staff members throughout the school, reported advisors Steven Johnston and Liddell.
Members of the junior class at Chautauqua Lake held a coat drive to collect new or gently worn coats and jackets in all sizes, along with new hats, scarves, mittens and gloves. After distributing some items to those in their own school who needed warm winter clothing, the rest were donated to the Salvation Army of Western New York to help others throughout the region. Ashley Muscarella and Bill Persons are junior class advisors.
Realizing there are additional unmet needs, especially among older students in the district, the Chautauqua Lake Support Network was formed last year to enable students, staff and the larger community help meet those needs. This year Principal Liddell sent a "wish list" of items the Support Network sought to help secondary school students. The list included 23 gift cards of various types, 10 items of clothing and some other gift suggestions. Within four days, all the items had been provided to be distributed to the students in need.
Liddell explained the project grew out of an experience with a student new to the district in the fall 2011. The young man's home situation was troubling, Liddell reported. Teachers, counselors, administrators and support staff had concerns about everything from his having proper winter clothing to being fed adequately. Numerous school staff worked together to support him on a variety of fronts.
One day he was walking alone in the corridor and looked defeated. Liddell stopped him and asked if he was going on the spectator bus to the football game. "I wish I could," was the boy's response. After a few phone calls, Liddell secured approval from the boy's guardian and set him up with everything he needed for the trip. From that point forward, every time Liddell ran into the student, he was beaming. At the football game, the young man came sprinting across the parking lot to shake Liddell's hand, saying simply, "Thank you, thank you for everything. I love Chautauqua Lake." He turned and sprinted back to the pre-game tailgate party.
Liddell realized the young man's thank you was not directed to him alone, but to everyone at Chautauqua Lake who worked to make his life better - the teachers who stayed after school to give him extra support, the guidance staff who consoled him, the support team who made sure he had what he needed to get through the school day and the community that made sure he could attend the football game. On that day, this young man didn't have to worry about his life. He could enjoy the day and live in the moment.
"Times may be tough, and I know we cannot control the home situations for our students, but I know we all strive to ensure our students' school experience is enjoyable," Liddell said.
He and others banded together then to establish the Chautauqua Lake Support Network, which works throughout the year to assist students and families facing hardship.
Student leaders in Student Administration and the Sources of Strength program help identify secondary school students in need. District residents and community businesses, along with school staff, students and school board members, contribute to alleviate those needs. District residents who wish to be "on call" to help meet future needs like these may contact Liddell in the Secondary School Office at 753-5881 or using the Contact Us button on the district website, www.clake.org.