Skip to main content

Sandy Journal

Local high schools pool together to help area families, International Rescue Committee

Feb 01, 2021 02:56PM ● By Julie Slama

Scheels donated $500 to each school—Jordan, Hillcrest and Brighton—to help the high schools raise more than $35,000 to help local families and give to the International Rescue Committee. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Hurst/Hillcrest High)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Every year, many area high school students decide on a charity or nonprofit organization to help or raise funds for during the month leading up to the winter break.

This year, three local high schools—Jordan, Hillcrest and Brighton—collaborated to bring awareness and raise more than $35,000 together for the International Rescue Committee.

IRC in Salt Lake City helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future, said Jesse Sheets, IRC development manager, who added that since 1994, when IRC opened in Salt Lake City, they have helped more than 12,000 individuals.

“We are grateful for any student-led initiatives, including the effort of Hillcrest High School in collaboration with Jordan High School and Brighton High School,” Sheets said. “Student-led fundraisers bring together large, diverse student bodies and their communities, unified behind a focused effort to raise awareness of refugee resettlement in Utah as well as raise vital funds in support of over 20 programs and services offered by the IRC in Salt Lake City and in direct support of the more than 2,100 refugees, asylees, immigrants and new Americans we serve each year.”

Jordan High studentbody president Brooklyn Wagner liked working with Hillcrest and Brighton student leaders. 

“It’s pretty cool that we all came together to raise money for the IRC,” she said. “Hillcrest came up with the idea and approached us. We know it can benefit families who attend our school.”

Early in their efforts, a $500 donation to each of the three schools came from Scheels.

“They contacted us and wanted to make a donation,” she said. “It was generous of them to contact us.”

While the schools worked together and pooled their donations, because of the need to social distance and not mix students from schools during COVID-19, each high school held their own activities independently, with the exception of several area businesses holding fundraiser nights, earmarking a portion of the proceeds to go to the campaign.

“It was different this year, with COVID, but we tried to hold what activities we could. We weren’t able to go into the neighborhoods to help out the community and do odd jobs for donations, but we could hold some activities and tournaments making sure we spread out and sanitized balls,” Wagner said.

Jordan High student leaders collected money from selling donated Krispy Kreme doughnuts and holding lunch activities and tournaments including ping pong, spike ball and rock, paper, scissors. They also held a Dash for Cash event to help boost the fundraising.

Classmates took part in a schoolwide competition, with first period classes competing against each other to see which class raised the most funds. Donations were made online to the school’s Venmo account.

Senior TJ Tait, who serves as Jordan’s service vice president, said that they felt fortunate that community members wanted to be generous even in a pandemic year.

“We were able to get donations from people who knew it was going to a good cause,” he said. “I missed going out and doing service for our neighbors, like raking leaves or putting up holiday decorations. I like to do service. It’s fun and makes me feel good to help.”

Tait has helped in the community from tying fleece blankets for kids in a local hospital to helping build houses for neighbors.

“The best part is getting involved in the community and having them involved in our school,” he said. “They’re a part of this; we’re all wanting to help others.”

Wagner agreed.

“Some people just made donations, knowing whatever they could give, would help students who live in the community,” she said, adding that a portion of the funds the school raised was earmarked to share with families of Jordan students in need. 

Hillcrest student body president Max Lapore also said some funds likely will help Hillcrest families.

“We have a lot of refugees in the Hillcrest community and we were able to share with our student body how they have benefited from the IRC and how it changes their lives,” he said. “I like the idea of sharing and working together with the other schools on a charity. It’s a hard time with so many people struggling financially, mentally, emotionally and we know for those who can serve and give, it’s a great thing they can do in today’s world.”

Brighton student body president Will Rahaniotis agreed.

“It means a lot to help others any way we can, especially this year during a year of a worldwide pandemic with natural disasters and a need for humanitarian help,” he said. “I think if we all just think of seeing someone’s face react when they’re handed a check or something they need, that gives a lot of meaning to this.”

Nearby Alta High and Corner Canyon High also held fundraisers. Both schools chose to help children’s wishes be granted through the Make-A-Wish foundation.