Blue Ridge sends aid to Miss. school

The school raised nearly $3,000 for an elementary school damaged by Hurricane Katrina.
Wednesday, October 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:21 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

All day Friday, someone was dancing at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

Students paid a dollar to dance. They danced to appropriate music, said fifth-grader Dakotah Meierotto, making the quotation marks with her fingers.

The dance marathon, called Gator-Aid, raised nearly $3,000 to help out a Mississippi elementary school that Blue Ridge has adopted.

College Park Elementary School, in Gautier, near the Mississippi-Alabama line, remained standing, but its students were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina.

Tessa Sutton, who teaches second grade at Blue Ridge, once lived in Gautier and attended College Park — where students are nicknamed the Gators. When Blue Ridge faculty and parents expressed a desire to aid Katrina victims, Sutton proposed adopting her former elementary school.

Kelsey Morris and Allie Welch, who teach fifth grade at Blue Ridge, spearheaded the plan to incorporate music with fundraising. The two teachers often play music in their classrooms and use dancing as a reward for their students.

“We had the idea to combine something the students like with helping those less fortunate,” Morris said.

Many teachers at Blue Ridge have discussed and incorporated news of the hurricane into their classroom lesson plans. Sutton’s class even made Gator hats. Although many classes are learning about the hurricane and raising money for the victims on their own, Morris said the dance marathon was a great way to involve the entire school in the giving process.

“I think it was awesome because dancing is one of my favorite things,” fifth-grader Olivia Jones said.

College Park’s building did not receive much physical damage, said Renea Rzonca, the school’s secretary. College Park is, however, housing students from a nearby school in Gautier that lost everything. Rzonca said College Park has basic necessities, but there are still supplies teachers need for their classrooms.

Timothy Majerus, principal of Blue Ridge, said they will use the money raised to buy $50 gift certificates for each teacher at College Park that they can use at their discretion.

Students will return to College Park on Thursday.

“At least school will get back to normal,” Rzonca said.

First National Bank in Columbia, which is Blue Ridge’s Partner in Education, donated $1,000 to the fundraising effort. Partners in Education are businesses that team up with the school district to provide additional money and services.

The fifth-grade classes plan to create PowerPoint slide shows about their school and the dance marathon to send to College Park.

Morris said the student response to giving has been overwhelming. Many students gave more than the $1 to dance or brought extra money for classmates who did not bring any.

Jones said she has seen many pictures of those who need help in the Gulf Coast.

“I feel better that people helped and actually tried,” she said.

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