By Brandi Makuski
A group of 15 ninth graders at Ben Franklin Jr. High were a flurry of activity of Friday, counting money, writing thank-you cards and ironing clothes.
Wait — the kids were ironing in a business class?
“Yep, ironing,” said teacher Art Greco. “A lot of them didn’t know how to iron, so we’re showing everyone: we want them to look really sharp for their presentation on June 2.”
“Argh, I can’t remember how I did it last time,” said student Devin Hintz, as he struggled to tie a Windsor knot. “We’re supposed to look good for this [presentation], so I have a week to remember.”
The class has been working towards its final project — a fundraiser for the Portage Co. K-9 Unit — since the beginning of the semester. Their initial goal was to raise $1,500 to benefit the K-9 program, but Greco offered an incentive for reaching $5,000: the students would get to shave his head during an all-school assembly on June 2.
It was the goal the students all agree they never thought they’d reach.
“I never thought we’d raise this much money because this has not been easy at all,” said student Ellie Ackerlund. “When we started this I really didn’t think it would go anywhere, I guess. I can’t believe we got another $100.”
The students had to initiate cold calls to solicit help from the media, district officials and local businesses — a feat alone they said was intimidating— then compile data on the K-9 program; then organize and advertise a community-wide fundraiser event at Lower Whiting Park.
Special guests at the April 30 event included Sheriff Mike Lukas, Deputy John White and his K-9 partner Lady, Deputy Dan Wachowiak – whose K-9 partner Baco is ill – as well as Whiting President Paul Stroik, Mayor Mike Wiza and several members of Stevens Point and Plover police, fire and EMS departments. By the end of the day, they’d brought in more than 300 area residents and about $3,000 in donations.
The class continued taking donations for their cause through May 20. The final count? Just under $7,000 — $6,900, to be exact — with the last $100 kicked in by Ellis Construction.
According to Greco, the students on Friday hadn’t realized the importance of what they’d achieved — and they likely still don’t.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, and probably won’t for awhile,” Greco said Friday. “What these kids did was a historic thing; it’s the first time a group of kids — of students — put together a major fundraiser from start to finish.”
Students are now preparing to give their final presentation on the K-9 program before the Interim Superintendent Lee Bush, his cabinet and hopefully, the entire Stevens Point School Board. A presentation which culminates all the students’ research and hard work; one that will formally announce their final donation tally; a presentation which will be made in crisp, ironed clothes and freshly-tied Windsor knots.
“This project has been a huge shot in the arm for the students, but not just the student,” Greco said. “This has meant a lot of the school, to the teachers — it’s been a big morale boost for everybody.”
The students make their final presentation on the morning of Tuesday, June 2; Greco’s head will be shaved during an all-school assembly that afternoon.