There is something so beautiful to me about seeing a room of young people exuding positive energy, students who are doing so much more than working toward a goal. They’re working because they want to make a positive difference. They really get it.
Teens with a higher purpose. That’s what I saw a week ago when I walked into Tim Hubbard’s sophomore English classroom at Deer Park High School. It was going on several hours since the last bell rang but no one was even thinking about leaving. They were sprawled out on the floor and sitting at desks grouped together, each student with a specific project.
They really didn’t have a whole lot of time to waste. In less than a week they will be opening their gym up to the public, hoping everyone they know will invite nine people – or at least one, to raise awareness and funds for a culture that has won hearts worldwide after a devastating earthquake rocked what was already a country in need.
But if you come, know this; ‘Soiree Pour Haiti’ is not about focusing on poverty and disaster. It is about celebrating the richness of the Haitian culture. This is the first year in history that that country has had to cancel its Kanaval – an annual ushering of spring – because of the earthquake. So this year, teens, many of whom had never even heard of Haiti before January are committed to ensuring their community is connected. All their funds raised will go toward the relief efforts of the American Red Cross and the Restevek Foundation.
The Soiree will have a Haitian marketplace that will also include authentic food and a Kanaval parade in which kids will be able to participate. Deer Park students have been researching and making traditional Haitian foods, and learning folkloric songs and the Haitian national anthem. Groups from sophomore English classes have been working on posters to educate guests about different parts of the Haitian culture. People who come will also have an opportunity to vote on the best shanty made by the teens (for a small fee).
“Ever since I saw the news about the earthquake, I wanted to do something but I didn’t think I could on my own,” Kalina Procas told me. She was making tissue paper flowers that would be for sale at the event. “One day I want to make a different in the world like the man from Restavec (Restavek Foundation’s Jean Cadet spoke to the students).”
Actually, Kalina already is making a difference in this world. And so are her classmates.
Gini Verbesselt Niekamp, PR coordinator for Deer Park School District, and Tim Hubbard, sophomore English teacher and high school service-learning coordinator, have been overseeing the project.
Soiree Pour Haiti
where: Deer Park High School (8351 Plainfield Rd; 45236)
when: Thursday, March 11 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
cost: $2 for adults; kids 12 and under are $1
(Pictures – upper left, Sarah Keefe making bracelets that will be
for sale; bottom right, Kalina Procas with tissue flowers she made)