In memoriam, students aid Haitian village

Rock Bridge students are trying to raise money to adopt a town as a tribute to their departed classmate.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

Rock Bridge High School students are carrying on the legacy of classmate Paige Siddall, who died earlier this year in a car accident, with their winter service project — adopting a village in Haiti.

“It was the kind of thing that she would do,” senior Sarah Ginsburg said. “It’s kind of that extra drive that makes us want to reach our goal.”

This winter, Rock Bridge High School will be adopting the Jodo village in Haiti, a Caribbean country slightly smaller than Maryland. The school is trying to raise $5,000 to send to the villageto help sustain agriculture, improve reproductive health, and improve water supply and sanitation.

Assistant Principal Kathy Ritter said the project has helped students channel their grief.

“It’s really helping them deal with the loss,” Ritter said. “And I think a really significant sign of the impact she had on others.”

Ginsburg, a member of Rock Bridge’s student council, chose Haiti from a list of countries because she said she thinks people don’t really realize how needy and impoverished it is.

“We hoped people would get informed about it, as well as donate,” Ginsburg said.

The project began as the student council’s fund-raiser but quickly became an all-school as well as a community-wide event. Rock Bridge even enlisted the help of its rival, Hickman High School.

“It’s a higher cause,” senior Erin Meyer said about the rivalry. “You have to forget that.”

Hickman has been selling T-shirts and necklaces to help raise money. Hannah Duncan, a senior at Hickman, said the school is involved in its own fundraisers so its students can’t help as much as they’d like.

Rock Bridge has been selling T-shirts and earlier this month they held an art show that raised around $800.

The Adopt-A-Village program is operated through World Neighbors, an organization that helps impoverished communities throughout the world.

A donation of $2,500 is enough to make a difference in the Jodo village. However, the project’s leaders, Ginsburg and Meyer, have set their goal at $5,000. Right now they have raised a little over $2,000 as they face a Dec. 19 deadline to raise the rest.

The project is entirely student-initiated, Ritter said. They came up with the idea and the fundraisers.

“They get the job done,” Ritter said. “I am just kind of behind making sure the props are ready and they are putting on the show.”

Other clubs at Rock Bridge are helping raise money in their own ways. For instance, the International Thespian Society, of which Siddall was a member, is hosting a Star Wars movie marathon — Star Wars movies were Siddall’s favorite, Ginsburg said. All proceeds from the concession stands will go to Adopt-A-Village.

Meyer said the students working on the service project brainstorm after school about different ways they can raise money. Some include putting donation cans out at Columbia businesses, sending out letters to parents asking for donations and a dinner night at Shakespeare’s with 15 percent of the proceeds going to the project.

In participating in this project, Meyer said he has realized the impact he can make.

“It’s helped me open my eyes to my ability to make a difference,” he said. “I never saw myself doing this.”

Throughout their fundraising efforts, Siddall’s memory has been and will continue to be a strong presence.

“As teenagers, we lose sight of our place in the world,” Ginsburg said. “Paige had a good idea of her place.”

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