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home : features : catholic schools

11/2/2017 9:00:00 AM
Schools push hard to help hurricane survivors
MAGINN STUDENTS PLAY videogames at a fundraiser and Eh Htee, Day Poe, Jeny Moo, Dah Poe and Paw L. Shee show off what they collected at church.
MAGINN STUDENTS PLAY videogames at a fundraiser and Eh Htee, Day Poe, Jeny Moo, Dah Poe and Paw L. Shee show off what they collected at church.
All 22 Catholic schools of the Albany Diocese have been participating in a national fundraising effort for hurricane relief, and impressing diocesan officials with their passion to help.

The "Student to Student: A Catholic School Response for Hurricane Relief 2017" campaign is being coordinated by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) to assist Catholic schools in Texas, Louisiana and Florida that have been most severely impacted by the recent hurricanes.

The schools of the Albany Diocese have already raised $9,490, nearly doubling the goal they had set.

"Our original goal was $1 per student. That basically equates to $5,000," said Kathleen Yanas, director of advancement and strategic partnerships for the diocesan Catholic Schools Office.

"But the schools just really took this to heart."

There are 18 diocesan elementary schools and four diocesan high schools. Most had dress-down days or similar events, said Ms. Yanas, but one school's efforts went above and beyond: Bishop Maginn High in Albany.

Maginn students had a fund­raiser at Blaze Pizza in Albany's Stuyvesant Plaza, with 20 percent of sales going to their hurricane relief efforts. But that was just one in a series of fundraisers.

Karen students who came to Maginn as refugees from Myanmar took up a collection at the Karen Seventh Day Adventist Church, raising nearly $250. A bake sale during lunch at the school brought in more donations. Students stood at school sporting events with a bucket for contributions. An after-school videogame tournament had the Maginn community dancing and laughing as they raised money for the campaign.

Senior Isaiah Johnson was part of the group of students who came up with the idea for the videogame competition. "All of us have gaming consoles," he said, so they decided to bring them into school. Students paid about $5 to play NBA 2K18, a basketball game, or Injustice 2, where the central character is Batman.

"A lot of people showed up and they all seemed to enjoy it," Isaiah reported. Prizes weren't even necessary: "If you won, you kind of got bragging rights."

In total, Bishop Maginn students have raised almost $1,000 for hurricane relief. Still to come is a pajama party/movie night fundraiser in December, with Christmas movies projected on a big screen.

"We're the poorest school in the Diocese," noted Susan Silverstein-Gilligan, a theology teacher and director of campus ministry at Maginn, referring to the refugee students and others who come from low-income families. "These people don't have anything."

For a new course called "Social Justice and Community Engagement," she assigned her students to do fundraising for hurricane relief. They ran with the idea.

"They get it," Mrs. Silverstein-Gilligan said simply. "They get what it means to have nothing."

For the students who aren't refugees, she added, "it rubs off."

Ms. Yanas lauded all the Catholic students around the Diocese who contributed to the Student to Student campaign, declaring: "They really took part in a big way. Our students are very giving."

All of the money raised will go directly to helping Catholic schools that have been most severely impacted by the recent hurricanes. "We're very pleased we're able to send that amount of money to schools affected by the hurricanes," said Ms. Yanas. Through the NCEA, "all of the money, every penny raised, is going to the schools."

"Our diocesan school communities are generous and caring," agreed Giovanni Virgiglio, superintendent of Schools for the Diocese. "We are so proud of our students. They saw the need, embraced the challenge, and did what they are taught to do: help others in need, especially in times of crisis."

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