Written by Christopher Gavin Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00
The idea that superheroes do not wear capes seems true for people at Floral Park Memorial High School. In this case, superheroes may be wearing backpacks.
On June 3, the school’s buildOn club was awarded a $5,000 grand prize check from Madison Square Garden Varsity and Optimum cable’s Power To Learn “Charity Champions” Contest Program to help build a school in a Nicaraguan village this summer.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano reminded teachers and students about the acts of kindness residents bestowed following hurricane Sandy last October when speaking at the ceremony held in the school’s library.
“That’s what sets us apart from other communities and it’s heartwarming to see that you are bringing that care [and] that compassion to other parts of the world,” Mangano said
The club has about 30 members and started in 2011 after a student approached social studies teacher Christina Blanc about starting a chapter of buildOn, a national non-for-profit organization that aims to build schools in some of the poorest countries in the world, according to Blanc. buildOn has around 30 chapters nationwide, she said.
To build a school, the club must raise $30,000, which it did last year, Blanc said. For 10 days in July 2012, 13 students and 3 teachers went to a village in Nicaragua to construct the school, she said. This year the chapter raised about $15,000 with the rest to be provided by the 12 students going on the June 23 trek through private fundraising, according to Blanc.
“The $30,000 went towards the construction materials and those types of things and the villagers provided the labor and the land,” Blanc said. “buildOn provided the skilled labor and worked with the government to make sure that [there would be] teachers and the school would open when they were done building.”
Blanc said the club hosted several fundraising events during the school year that included a pancake breakfast and a junior and senior class competition. It also received donations from other school organizations such as the National Honor Society, she said.
Kevin Waters, the educational manager at Power to Learn, said schools in the tri-state area that are within the footprint of Cablevision are eligible to enter the “Charity Champions” contest. Each participating school selects a charity it wants to partner with for a year, he said. Every school receives a $500 grant and the charity it is partnered with is given a $1,000 donation, Waters said. In mid-April, each school submits a portfolio of the work it did and the funds it raised.
“The commitment shown from these students based on the number of events, the creativity of the events and just how committed they were to it in terms of that they were actually traveling to Nicaragua for this program, it was something that really impressed everyone,” Waters said of the club. “It’s a great thing that they’re doing.”
Uma Natarajan, a junior at the school, is one of three students in the club that traveled to Nicaragua last year and will go again later this month, she said.
“My favorite part is the children,” Natarajan said. “Just knowing that we did all that for them-and they were just such good kids-and just knowing that we changed their life; it’s just an amazing feeling.”