This article was originally published in the Harker Quarterly Spring 2011 Edition
If the holiday spirit is any indicator, the Harker community understands the value of giving back. With an array of service oriented clubs across all three campuses and additional holiday drives, parents and faculty worked together to instill the importance of philanthropy in students from K-12.
With Operation: Gratitude in October, when students donated almost 1,000 pounds of candy to U.S. troops, and the grade 5 food drive in November, which amounted to 328 bags of groceries and $3,200 delivered to St. Justin’s Community Ministry, the lower school has found a multitude of ways to give back to the surrounding community. In mid-December grade 4 held its annual toy drive for Sacred Heart Community Services, an organization that assists families in becoming financially self sufficient. Nearly 1,000 toys were collected during the holiday season, and students who helped with delivering the toys in mid-December also had a chance to tour the facilities and learn more about the SCHS commitment to eradicate poverty. Students and parents came together once again in January to collect sleepwear and books for The Pajama Program, a not-for-profit that provides new pajamas and books to children in need (see page 42).
The middle school also organized a food drive in November and collected more than 250 pounds of canned and dry food items for Second Harvest Food Bank. Along with the 680 pounds of food the upper school collected through a friendly class competition, the food drive amounted to an unprecedented schoolwide charity effort.
Steven Hewitt, middle school Service Club advisor, also helped students organize a coat drive, collecting more than 175 used coats for InnVision, which distributes the collected wear to people in need of warm clothing during the winter. More than 20 middle school advisories participated in other gift-giving efforts. Fifteen advisories played Santa, purchasing special Christmas gifts and wrapping them with handmade cards for 123 preschool children at the Kidango Child Center. Another six provided gifts to children and mentally challenged adults who wrote wish lists through the Family Giving Tree.
“I am grateful and impressed with the efforts of our middle school community,” Hewitt wrote in an e-mail to parents and students. “Harker has always been a leader in the South Bay when it comes to charitable and fundraising efforts, and this year has been no different.”
Efforts came from all sides in the upper school, with Diana Moss, senior class dean, organizing a toiletries drive and the soccer team holding the annual Kicks Against Cancer event. On Jan. 12, Harker’s upper school boys and girls soccer teams raised nearly $8,000 in this year’s annual Kicks Against Cancer event at Davis Field. Funds were raised by selling tickets (which came with a commemorative T-shirt) and bracelets during lunch on the days leading up to the event, as well as from a special fund for faculty and staff. Michael Anthony’s Salon in Saratoga contributed too, by donating proceeds from all transactions made on a certain day. Both boys and girls varsity soccer teams had a game on Jan. 12, and during the halftimes of both games, several teachers and coaches volunteered to be human targets in the classic game of “Butts Up,” which required they bravely bend over in front of the goal while audience members took turns aiming penalty kicks at them. The goal for this year’s fundraiser was to send four child cancer survivors to Camp Okizu, a camp that specializes in activities and care for young cancer patients and survivors and their families.
In addition to the November food drive, the upper school helped others this holiday season through various organizations including Sunday Friends, an organization committed to helping families break out of the cycle of poverty, and EHC LifeBuilder’s Shelter Elves project, which connects sponsors with families and children who have written holiday wish lists.
Upon returning from the holiday break, Harker’s WiSTEM organization (Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) led a weeklong effort to raise awareness about the disparity between female and male education rates in the developing world.
Throughout the first week of the new year, WiSTEM members emphasized that giving a girl an education leads tobetter health and lifestyles for her entire family. Since female education rates are the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa,the club raised funds for CAMFED, an organization that transfers donations to Africa to send children to school. To accomplish their goal, WiSTEM members sold goods at almost every opportunity, including after school and at lunch.
Two weeks later the Global Empowerment and Outreach Club (GEO) held a fundraising week, with events throughout the week to raise awareness about universal primary education, one of the United Nation’s eight Millennium Development Goals. Working with Room to Read, a nonprofit dedicated to helping underprivileged children around the world, GEO raised more than $1,600 towards the $8,000 that will fund construction of two libraries in India and Vietnam.
GEO brainstormed creative and educational ways to raise awareness and raise funds, including a challenge for students to go a day without electronics. The club also hosted Dress for Success, a daylong event in which students dropped change into 27 jars labeled with teachers’ photographs. The teacher with the most votes, or most change, would then wear a middle school uniform. All of the students’ efforts that week helped raise more than 15 percent of the club’s goal.
No matter the age or cause, Harker students find ways to give back to the community. With the help of community service advisors and faculty members, the three campuses find organizations and programs to work with, producing, from year to year, outstanding results and exceptional attitudes towards service.
For more information, visit news.harker.org and search “service.”
Annual Pajama Drive Anything But Sleepy
Four years ago, Rishi Narain, now grade 7, sat down to watch the “Oprah” show. The show’s guest that day was Genevieve Piturro, founder of the Pajama Program, a nonprofit dedicated to delivering warm sleepwear and nurturing books to children in need. Seeing thousands of pajamas and books donated to children who never had them inspired Narain to bring the program to Harker, where he organized the lower school’s first annual pajama drive.
Four years later, the event is bigger than ever.
The January assembly was a raucous affair. In addition to all the lower school students, there were also “big people in the audience,” as Joe Connolly, lower school dean, put it in his introduction to the event. The “big people” were sophomores, who had come as part of the Eagle Buddies program.
Eagle Buddies, still in its first year, was an initiative suggested by Butch Keller, upper school head, in an effort to bridge the campus divide. Third and tenth graders are matched together, and according to Carol Zink, upper school history teacher, the third graders get fun, older role models, “while the sophomores get a chance to lighten up and be kids for a little bit.”
The buddies stay together for three years, until the sophomores graduate and the third graders matriculate into middle school. “It’s been going more smoothly than I could ever imagine,” said Keller. “I couldn’t be more pleased with what we’re accomplishing.”
After Connolly’s introduction, Pallie Zambrano, co-president of the Pajama Program’s Northern and Central California chapter, expressed thanks to the Harker students, reminding them that each donated pair of pajamas would change the life of a child in need.
Next, Keller replaced his suit jacket with a bathrobe and reclined on a rocking chair to read “We Are Going on a Bear Hunt” to the children. All the students got involved during the audience participation part of the reading, with special zeal coming from the sophomores.
Finally, the students spent some time reading to themselves and with their buddies. Big Buddy Michaela Kastelman said she enjoyed spending time with her buddy because it brought her back to the experience of being in third grade.
Kindergartner Andrew Fox wasn’t too sure of what was going on, but he was very excited to be in his pajamas. “They’re not as tight as my uniform!” he exclaimed.
All in all, the event was a huge success, with Harker students donating 727 pairs of pajamas and 204 books, a school record for the program.
Along with the many outreach efforts by students and faculty, Harker, as a school, reaches out to the community in a number of ways.
The Harker Speaker Series
This series has brought internationally famous speakers to our campus, including Kiva founder and CEO Matt Flannery, travel author and television personality Rick Steves and astronomer Seth Shostak from the SETI Institute (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).
Harker Concert Series
This new program has already held two of three events planned for its first season. Washington, D.C.-based violin duo, MarcOlivia: Marc Ramirez and Olivia Hajioff appeared March 9. The Taylor Eigsti Trio: Eigsti, a Bay Area native and Grammy-nominated jazz pianist, played Nichols Hall on March 25. Areon Flutes, a Bay Area-based flute quartet, will appear May 27; see page 9 for more details.
Harker is a member of Common Ground, a coalition of Bay Area schools working together to provide parent education to their communities. The coalition provides opportunities for parents to learn from experts in the fields of education and parenting, and Harker supports that effort both by hosting at least one Common Ground speaker each year and by helping promote the series to Harker parents.
The Harker Research Symposium is a showcase of student research projects and is highlighted each year by keynote speakers of international renown and reports by alumni on their continuing research at universities. The symposium welcomes visitors and will be held April 23 this year. More information can be found at www.harker.org.