Raising thousands of dollars for North Shore-based and national organizations and bringing smiles to those in need of cheer is no small feat. But fifth- through eighth-graders at Mount Sinai Middle School are making a habit of it.
Lindsey Ferraro, a co-advisor for the school’s Community Outreach and Service clubs for the last three years, said students learn compassion and empathy.
“It amazes me more so every year how dedicated our club members and the school community are to bettering the world,” she said. “Our students have gone above and beyond to help out the community.”
The club adopted a family this past holiday season, created cards for soldiers, visited the Woodhaven nursing home in Port Jefferson Station to sing holiday carols, held a clothing drive for the homeless and raised over $1,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
“You know you’re helping out someone much less fortunate than you, and it feels really good,” eighth-grader Jake Ritchie said. “It feels really good to know that I make a statement and take a stand in my community to help out.”
Ritchie, who has been a member of the club since he was in fifth grade, said the club is also collecting books for a Stony Brook book drive and helping Girl Scouts receive a bronze award. He said even his classmates lend a hand.
“They have been helping out,” he said, “We make speeches in front of our classes to encourage kids to help out. It’s a lot of fun.”
Mount Sinai Middle School Principal Peter Pramataris said he also sees students outside the club donating to the club’s causes.
“It’s always great to see the school building come together as a whole,” he said. “I reside in the district, too, and whenever there’s a family with some hardship, a loss or a health issue, the community always steps up to help each other. It’s a testament to the families we have in our community and the value system that they have from home and that we reinforce at the school. These students take their own time, and they do it unselfishly. I’m proud to be their principal.”
The club has also raised more than $2,000 in two weeks for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients fund, with a week of fundraising left to go. Next, the school will be working on its Light It up Blue campaign, where members of the club will sell puzzle pieces in light of Autism Awareness Month for Autism Speaks.
Nicole Kotarski, who has been a co-adviser for five years, said the club fosters independence and creativity.
“We’ve had several students bring us ideas if they like a particular organization, and we tell them to figure out how to make it happen,” she said, adding that she asks students to organize contact information, ideas for fundraisers and how to make the school aware of them. “The goal of our club is to make a difference in others’ lives. These students are definitely the most driven students. They’re the ones that make the effort to become actively engaged in the community.”
Ferraro and Kotarski agreed that the students are doing an amazing job, and they’re proud of the student’s hard work and effort.
“They really do care and they’re learning — they’re not in it for anything else,” Ferraro said. “They do such a good job raising awareness throughout the school … and really making, especially the people around the holidays, feel loved and cared for.”
That’s what makes being a part of the club so special for fifth-grader Matthew Stancampiano.
“I like doing this because it helps me help the less fortunate people in our community,” he said. “We can accomplish bigger things in a group. It makes me feel happy that I am able to help other people.”