For the fourth straight year Oak Ridge staff and students worked to make the holidays brighter for Oak Ridge Elementary students in Sacramento. In partnership with the Be Change campaign, which secures funding for kids in the tough Oak Park neighborhood and promotes the self-reliant message of hope through the theme Be the change you need in your own life, El Dorado Hills students have gained new perspective as well. What may seem like necessities — socks and toothbrushes — are luxuries to kids who don’t live too far away.
Founder of the Be Change campaign, Jason Harper, approached ORHS’s student activities teacher Marcia Moya several years ago.
“Jason shares the message physical health holds many kids back at Oak Ridge Elementary and he’s made it his mission to help them,” said Moya. “He comes to talk to our students every year and the ORHS student body really gets it.”
“Whether urban or suburban, every child deserves an equal education,” Harper wrote on the Be Change website. “Growing up in poverty can directly affect whether or not a child gets a great education. We are removing every barrier, from health care to hunger, that may prevent a child from optimal academic performance.”
In years past ORHS students collected money and canned food for their sister school, but this year they expanded their donation drive to include socks, toiletries and school supplies.
Moya said the staff at Oak Ridge Elementary told her their kindergarten through sixth-grade students need things as basic as socks this year. In just one day of their five-day Be Change donation drive earlier this month, students collected 600 pairs of new socks for them. During the other four days the focus jumped from non-perishable foods and school supplies to spare change and dental/hygiene products.
“Each year the ASB class raises the bar of expectations and their goal,” said Moya. “I am so pleased to say that once again the students and staff at ORHS have supported our cause and our goal has been achieved. There are 150 more students at Oak Ridge Elementary this year than last, now a total of 550 students and 20 classrooms.”
Each day during the Be Change drive ORHS leadership students spent their lunch sorting and organizing donations. On Dec. 11, the day after “Warm and Toesie Tuesday,” for instance, they divided 600 pairs of socks by age and gender.
Every Oak Ridge Elementary student will receive a gift box with items from the week’s goods.
“Every student will receive a grocery bag of six cans of food,” said Moya. “They will also receive a personal gift box with a dental pack, three toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, two pairs of socks and hand sanitizer, five pencils, three pens, an eraser, 10 crayons and two markers.”
Spare change was used to shop for additional supplies if needed and surplus would be presented as a check to the school for enrichment activities.
“Last year we cut Oak Ridge Elementary a check for $1,000 that they used to send their sixth graders to overnight science camp at Sly Park,” said Moya.
As for each gift box, girls got red labels and green labels for boys. “Adding tissue paper to the gift boxes makes it feel like a gift,” said ORHS sophomore leadership student Gabriel Garcia.
“We visit them and deliver the gift boxes before they get out for Christmas break,” said Gabriel, remembering the impressionable encounter he had in 2012. “It’s so neat and eye-opening to see items they need like socks are like presents to them.
“The younger students are really cute and interactive with us, said Gabriel. The older students (4th through 6th) are smiley and intuitive. They know what’s going on. They look in their boxes and show one another,” he continued. “To see what our student body can accomplish is awesome.”
Extra school supplies are given to Oak Ridge Elementary teachers and any extra socks or toiletries are laid out on tables for Oak Ridge Elementary parents to peruse.
On Dec. 19 two buses filled students, staff and the Oak Ridge choir traveled to Oak Ridge Elementary to deliver the goods.
“It could not have happened without Marcia Moya’s leadership and dedication,” said Principal Paul Burke. “This is an incredible event for our students and the students at Oak Ridge Elementary. The need at Oak Ridge Elementary is real and the opportunity for our students to make a difference through Be Change is profound — an absolute win-win.”
For more information about Be Change visit extramilerun.com.