By PCR Principal, Karen Hurley
There’s a new direction for the Palm Crest Student Council -- one that reaches out to bring help locally and internationally while instilling values such as empathy and compassion in our own students and our school community.
Under the guidance of new Student Council co-advisors Mariana Valderhaug and Kim Hardash, Student Council responsibilities have been expanded. While Student Council members once focused mainly on planning spirit rallies and local holiday canned food drives, the PCR Student Council has widened its horizons to help underprivileged children both locally and across the ocean.
The first major thrust into service began last spring. After multiple efforts by PTA to encourage families to pick up “lost clothing,” PCR gave children in two Kenyan villages boxes of hoodies, jackets and other clothes. Palm Crest father and physician, Dr. Charles Otieno, has ties to Kenya and visits regularly. Last year his son Elijah, now a sixth grader, brought the plight of impoverished Kenyan children to the attention of Mrs. Valderhaug, who, with Principal Hurley, put the lost and found problem/solution into play. Dr. Otieno and his family graciously delivered the clothes to the villages and brought back photos of the delighted recipients.
This year’s student council has been busy giving back locally. During the January Spirit Rally, students saw the results of a backpack drive and a shoe drive. Bags and bags of shoes have been donated by PCR families to Soles 4 Souls. Shoes in good condition will be passed on to needy children, while shoes that have sustained more use will be given to a service that reconfigures the soles for use as safe, cushy playground surfaces. In addition, PCR students and families participated in a backpack drive for the Union Station Homeless Services, led by PCR Alumnus Kate Crowell. Students collected gently used backpacks, which were then filled with toiletries. These backpacks will be delivered to the homeless and other needy individuals through the Union Station Homeless Services.
Meanwhile, the Kenya connection is thriving. A second gift was made over Winter Break, when Mrs. Valderhaug and PCR parent Sarah Stark washed, dried, and folded 16 boxes of unclaimed Palm Crest lost and found items so that Dr. Otieno could, once again, transport them to the Kenyan villages where his mother and father were raised. Dr. Otieno also shared that most children in these Kenyan villages walk barefoot to school, some for several hours. As a result, many of the children are susceptible to Tunga Penetran, an infection caused by a type of sand flea which can lead to serious swelling and deformities of the feet. Beginning in March, the PCR Student Council will lead a fundraiser to collect shoes and school supplies for the children in these Kenyan villages.
The connection to children an ocean and a continent away from us need not end with boxes of supplies. As Mrs. Valderhaug explained: “The villages are working on laying fiber optics. They hope to have a computer or two online in the near future. When that happens, we at Palm Crest can Skype with these Kenyan students. English is their school language, so that is a plus as we, hopefully, develop deeper relationships.” While Palm Crest students can’t wait to see and talk to their new Kenyan friends, the positive impacts of this developing program are being felt now by children on both continents. Said Adam Kakuk, a sixth grade member of student council who has been on student council in previous years, “We used to spend a lot of time at meetings coming up with games for the spirit rallies. Now we are also working on charity projects to help the needy. I like it.”