Staples students raise money, awareness of war in Syria
Updated 1:58 pm, Friday, January 27, 2017
WESTPORT — As Cathy Schager’s Contemporary World Studies class followed live tweets of war-torn Aleppo, Syria, burning in December, they decided to take action.
Horrified by what they read and saw, the class set out to raise awareness of the daily tragedies caused by the Syrian civil war, a conflict that has raged unrelentingly since 2011, claimed the lives of 500,000 people and displaced almost half the country’s population, according to the Center for American Progress.
Usually, Schager assigns her class a final project, but because her students were so concerned about the crisis in Syria, she decided it made more sense to let them invest their time on an initiative they felt so strongly about.
“They were like, ‘What can we do?’ And I just basically decided it didn’t make any sense to make up a project if they actually wanted to do something and they could get real-life experience trying to either expose people in the community to what’s going on, or fundraise and event-plan,” Schager said.
Of the two world studies sections Schager teaches, one class made a documentary on the conflict, while the other class decided to raise money and organize information sessions. The two undertakings serve as the students’ final project.
With that, Staples High School Change for Syria materialized. The students organized a coin drive that has raised over $1,000. Proceeds go to NuDay Syria, a nonprofit aimed at bringing humanitarian aid to displaced Syrians with a special focus on single mothers with daughters.
Junior Sarah Maybruck spearheaded the change collection initiative. She got the idea from her middle school days, when she participated in the Penny Wars at Bedford Middle School. Students have been collecting money and will award a plaque — the First Annual Staples Positive Impact Award — to the group that contributed the most money.
Michael Simons, a junior who worked on the documentary, said he was encouraged by what his classmates could do in a short amount of time.
“I think it’s great. ... There is something you can do to try to make a difference. This project is small in the scheme of things, but I think it’s really important to at least try to do something,” Simons said.
Senior Eli Debenham said they were able to mobilize so quickly and efficiently because the students were so eager to help.
“I think it’s been so successful because it happened organically. Because this was something that we said ‘OK, we have to do this. We have to help.’ ... We’re out there doing this because we want to do it, not because we feel like we have to,” he said.