12.13.2019 - 3:05 PM - Hannah Raab
Christmas. It’s a joyful, merry, and festive season filled with lights, presents, and decorations. But, the true spirit of the holiday comes in giving back, giving thanks and lending a helping hand to those in need. For some, Christmas is a very difficult and trying time. It can be a time filled with loneliness, hunger, and need. This is where Giving Trees can help to make a positive impact on the community and spread the joy of Christmas.
The Giving Trees are an annual project sponsored by the Prentice High School Student Council. The elementary, middle, and high school students and staff all have the opportunity to participate in the project. The students and staff can bring in donations and turn them in to their homeroom. At the end of the project, the elementary class and middle and high school FOCUSes that bring in the most donations will earn a pizza party.
This year, donations are being collected for Catkins, the Phillips Nursing Home, and the Fill-a-Belly project here at the Prentice School. Kelly Hueckman, a member of Student Council, said, “I think it’s great that we can get a lot of kids involved in helping organizations that are in need, especially the organizations that give back directly to the community. I like that we can all be a community and help each other out.” Brook Mabie, another member of Student Council echoed that sentiment saying, “Through the Giving Trees, the students can interact with the community and work to help improve it.”
These organizations have been chosen because they are all important parts of the community, and they are places that may be overlooked by some. Jackie Franzoi, the School Counselor and Student Council Advisor stated, “It’s a great way to give back to the community and show the students that this is the season of giving, not just receiving.”
Not everyone is fortunate enough to receive gifts during the holidays, and many fundraisers aim to help out the children. These fundraisers are important and worthwhile, but there are few fundraisers that work to make the holidays cheerful for nursing home residents. This is where the Giving Tree project can help to brighten up the holidays for nursing home residents who may not have family or visitors and may otherwise not receive any gifts for the holidays.
This Christmas, it is expected that 95% of Americans pet owners, will buy gifts for their pets. While these pets are often showered with love and presents, shelter pets can become forgotten. The donations given to Catkins will help to spread the holiday spirit to shelter animals, as well. The Giving Trees help to make shelter animals’ days a little brighter and to give them the special Christmas they deserve. Every animal should receive love and kindness, whether they have a home or not, and that’s what the Giving Trees help to promote.
As many families are busy shopping for extra food for the holidays, there are some families and children who may not have access to meals. The donations that are brought in for the Fill-a-Belly program will help to fill backpacks with food for some children to take home over the break. These backpacks will help ensure that these children receive some food to eat while they are away from school.
Catkins is looking for donations of non-clumping cat litter, paper towels, old blankets, bleach, and dog and cat food. The Phillips Nursing Home is looking for donations of playing cards, snack size candy bars, fuzzy socks, air fresheners, throw blankets, house plants, and puzzle books. The Fill-a-Belly project is looking for donations of boxed cereals, instant oatmeal, boxed fruit juice, peanut butter, jelly, muffin mix, granola bars, raisins, Snack Pack Jello or Pudding, Macaroni & Cheese, canned meals, canned fruits and vegetables, crackers, and soups.
This project has gone well in previous years and has resulted in many donations given to area organizations. The organizations that are being helped by the Giving Trees are always extremely grateful for the support our school provides them. Franzoi said, “Last year, when the students dropped off donations to the nursing home, they were able to interact with the residents and [the residents] were just so excited to have younger people around to talk to. Everyone was smiling and laughing. It was a great thing to witness. It’s a perfect example of what this season is all about.”
The Giving Trees are just a small act of kindness that leave a major impact on the organizations and people they help. The project isn’t over yet and will continue until December 19. Please consider donating to the Giving Trees this season to help these organizations and places in our community. The Christmas season is truly a time of sharing and giving back and as the saying goes--it is better to give than to receive.
12.12.2019 - 3:19 PM - Noah Schantner - Opinion/Editorial
The new parking lot is great. It’s a new updated version, and the old one needed fixing badly. There are some new features of the parking lot that are very nice such as new pick up for buses. This may not seem like it’s such a big deal, but it’s crucial that we now have a more safe way of getting the kids on and off the buses. Another huge advantage is that there is much more space. This means that students will no longer have to cross the street in the morning or after school with cars coming through. The lot now has lights, too, which will be nice because it could save people from slipping on ice and getting injured. So, there are a lot of reasons why this new parking lot is great.
With all of the parking lot's positives, however, there are negatives. Sure, the good certainly outweighs the bad here, but there are problems that are arising, and they don’t have anything to do with the construction. Instead, the issues are with how people are parking. A problem that I have noticed with the new parking lot is that people don’t know that the spaces are not slanted but are instead vertical. That could be because there wasn’t even time to memorize how the lines are oriented, as they were painted shortly before the first snowfall covered them. Some park in a manner where it wouldn’t work even if the lines were slanted. Although we do have this new space, there are still students who need to park on the street or in the church parking lot because spots are not open due to the inefficient parking of others.
All in all, it’s a great parking lot, and it seems people try to find reasons to complain when what’s going on is their own fault. We just need to work together to figure it out and take advantage of the new huge parking lot we have.
After high school, Brook plans to attend either the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse or the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She has chosen these two campuses, for various reasons, one being that the schools offer a major in biochemistry, the program she intends to study. She also said, “Both of the schools have great campus environments.” Brook hopes to pursue a career as a pharmacist.
Autumn is currently looking at several colleges, including NTC, CVTC, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, but has not yet made the final decision on which campus she will be attending next year. She stated that, “I’m thinking about some of these schools because I like the travel abroad programs offered.” Presently, she is exploring the career path of Human Services in hopes of being able to help others.
Colton will be attending the Madison Area Technical College after high school. He first started considering this college when his older sister was accepted there. He was very impressed with the campus and its environment, and found that when he visited, it felt natural for him to be there. Colton has chosen to enter the architecture program at MATC. He first became interested in the idea of architecture when he was younger. He said “I’ve always enjoyed drawing, especially buildings.” Colton is also fascinated and passionate about planning structures.
Clayton plans on becoming either a plumber or an electrician. He will be accomplishing this under an apprenticeship program. He plans on attending a school where these apprenticeship programs are offered. Clayton said, “I like the idea of being able to work and make money while going to college.”
After high school, Megyn will be attending basic training for the National Guard. When she has finished the basic training program, she will be attending Northcentral Technical College to major in nursing. She said, “I like this campus because it is close to home and it is less expensive but still offers offers a quality education.”
Kelly plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley. She plans to attend this campus for her first two years of college because it is less expensive. Once she finishes there, she plans to transfer to UW-Oshkosh campus to finish her degree. Kelly’s goal is to earn a Master’s Degree in School Counseling partly because as she said, “I really like to help people out.”
Zoe will soon be starting a pre-license course online for real estate. In January, she hopes to take the State license exam. After completing the exam, she hopes to get an internship at a real estate agency in Phillips, in order to gain experience. Following graduation, Zoe hopes to move to Minocqua to sell real estate. She said, “I’ve chosen to enter the real estate business because I’ve always been drawn to houses and how different they are, but how at the same time they all function to serve the same purpose, to create a safe environment.”
Noah plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Through research, he became really interested in the campus. He liked the fact that it is one of the smaller campuses in the University of Wisconsin system. At UW-River Falls, Noah plans to major in journalism, because as he said, “I’ve always enjoyed writing.”
* * *
While this is just a small sampling of the Prentice High senior class of 2020, it shows the different directions and plans that each of us are making for the future. Some of our future plans may bring us together again and some plans may take us off in different directions completely. But no matter what decision or direction is made, we all have to choose our own path to greatness, made of individual hopes, talents, and strengths. With every passing day, our future plans are becoming more real. The idea of life after high school becomes less of a dream and more of an ultimate reality. All these decisions and plans being made are just one step of the journey that is the rest of our lives.
Photos by Hannah Raab
12.5.2019 - 3:45 PM - Kelly Hueckman
Last month, Prentice High students may have noticed a rather unfamiliar face wandering the halls of our school. No, there hasn’t been a new student. Phillips senior, Maylie Jiskra, shadowed Prentice senior, Megyn Eisner, as a project for her publications class to learn about the differences between the neighboring schools. A week following, the next component of the exchange took place, allowing me to shadow Jiskra throughout a regular day in Phillips High. Here, I discovered not only many similarities most likely brought by proximity and comparable size, but some surprising differences.
Upon entering Phillips School, I had expected to be a bit overwhelmed with the size of the building and classes coming from such a small school. However, I discovered the classes to be only slightly larger, falling between the 50-65 per class margin. In fact, when asked what their favorite part of Phillips High is, one of the top answers regarded their relatively small school and the privacy and relationships it allows. Phillips senior, Madeline Kulwicki, expressed her fondness of the smaller class sizes after moving from a large city: “I really enjoy the small classes,” she stated. “It allows for more one-on-one time with teachers.”
However, unlike Prentice, Phillips separates their high school, middle school, and elementary students entirely. Shadowing a high school student, I rarely found myself bumping into the younger students or trying to block out their naturally extreme volumes. While Prentice is contained in a singular building, Phillips School District is composed of one building for middle and high school students, which is organized in such a way that encounters between the two are scarce, and an entirely different building for the elementary students.
One of the most prominent differences I noticed during my day in the life of a Phillips student was their more advanced use of technology. In 2018, Phillips removed an entire computer lab after agreeing to assign each student their own Chromebook for the year. As most students in Prentice are aware, Prentice has a limited number of Chromebooks reserved for specific classes and only three labs to share amongst elementary, middle, and high school classes.
Furthermore, Phillips had an ATM in their commons, a large charging station,and a special, technological method of signing out of school. At exits in the school, QR codes were taped up for students to scan with their phones to alert the office that they were leaving the campus. This process took place of the previous system, which Prentice still uses, where students would have to manually sign in and out on sheets in the office before being entered into their online attendance records.
Using these QR codes, seniors in Phillips are also permitted to enjoy an off-campus lunch, a luxury Prentice hasn’t seen since the 1970s. Not only are the senior’s lunch period over a half hour longer than the lunch period in Prentice, but the freedom to drive into town to support local coffee shops or even to Park Falls to grab a McChicken received a great deal of positive feedback from seniors. “It’s really nice to be able to get a break away from school,” Jiskra stated. “It breaks up the day well.”
However, like any school, there is room for improvement. Among students, by far the number one thing they said they would change about the school is their parking lot and how it is used, an issue Prentice is familiar with. “It’s unorganized and hectic,” Jiskra explained. “There’s not enough room.” Other students commented on a lack of school spirit in Phillips: “We definitely don’t have as much as you,” Jiskra commented about Prentice. “But we have more than Chequamegon.”
After visiting Prentice for a day, Jiskra noted that the social scene in Prentice deemed to be generally more accepting and kind to others, especially between different grades. With this information, I had expected to experience a more hostile environment. However, much like Jiskra during her visit to Prentice, I was pleasantly surprised by the welcoming atmosphere. “The people are usually pretty nice, but we are very cliquish,” Jiskra admitted. “We stay within our groups and within our class.” Some students in Phillips, such as Kees Hoogland and Steven May, had many gracious compliments for their school, even after attending Prentice. May, also a senior, praised Phillips school for being an “enjoyable, healthy, and accepting environment.”
Despite Jiskra’s compliment regarding what she perceived as a warm and welcoming environment in Prentice, very few Phillips students said they would open-enroll in Prentice if they could no longer attend Phillips. Instead, many opted for an hour long drive to Medford instead of shortening their commute by attending either Prentice, Rib Lake, or Chequamegon. “I hear a lot of negative things,” one anonymous Phillips senior said about Prentice. “Especially about mean students.” This answer was common when students expanded on their thoughts about Prentice School, but is not much different from Prentice students’ views on Phillips students. “They just don’t seem as connected with each other like Prentice is,” said Prentice junior, Kaden Hartmann.
Is this feud based on evidence and experience, or just traditional rivalry between the schools? After a direct view into the camaraderie in both schools, the answer might lie with the spreading of negative rumors and lack of first-hand experience. With years of competition under their belts, students from both schools have likely grown up with negative connotations of the other school from parents, older siblings, and friends.
However, among all of the gossip, the positives from each school can get buried under all of the discord. Phillips has been involved in the Sources of Strength program recently introduced to Prentice, even participating in the White Board Project. Some students may have recognized the rival school mascots, Captain Bucky the Pond Pirate and Lucky Logger getting along on social media. Not only that, but Phillips students are rewarded for good behavior such as good grades and attendance with a “Privilege Card,” which gives students extra lunch time and free admission for sporting events. After getting an inside look at Phillips High, I can see that Phillips High students not only respect other students and their staff, but understand and fulfill their responsibilities on a similar level as Prentice.
12.4.2019 - 3:45 PM - Vivian Gehring
On the afternoon of Sunday, November 17, the sound of music and singing could be heard at the Ogema Town Hall as the students from the Prentice School District (PSD) showed off their talents at the 1st Annual Variety Show [VIDEO]. The seats were filled as talents were displayed by students, from tricks and jokes to singing and dancing.
Usually the PSD does performances such as The Lion King or last year's Aladdin. But as Jane Dettmering, PSD's former musical director stated, “Because of the construction and the band having the stage, Mr. Bergman suggested using the Town Hall.” The town hall is a very small space which would have made it hard for the students to perform a musical, so Harmoni Jesunas, the PSD Music Teacher and also a former musical director, came up with the idea to create a variety show.
She held auditions for students to participate in the show. Then Jesunas, teacher Hilary Pond, and 5th grade student Luca Blomberg worked together to write the script for the show. Performer Zoe Price auditioned for the show and stated, “With the variety show you auditioned to be in it, unlike in musicals where you auditioned for a certain part.”
The variety show worked for the size of the Town hall, but it is an old building and required some work in order for the performance to take place. “For the people involved, like the director and the sound people, there is a lot of work that takes place behind the scenes,” stated Jesunas, and boy was she right. The building had to be cleaned, and the chairs and other equipment along with working lights had to be set up . Due to snow, the sidewalk had to be shoveled for the audience to to even enter the building. Needless to say there were many late nights to get ready for the show.
Doing the show at the Town hall had both disadvantages and advantages. The disadvantages being the fact that the space was so small, which meant only smaller groups could perform. There was limited room for costume changes to take place considering they had no dressing rooms. Price went through the struggle of pulling off several dress changes, but even with the challenges, Price stated, “I liked it overall. I missed being in a musical but was able to be in so many acts it made up for it.” Additionally, it was nice to include the community of Ogema, which shuttered its elementary school this year.
Compared to the past musicals, the variety show was a lot more calm, without everything being organized as it usually was. Dettmering explained this stating, “Being the director, you have to get all of the costumes and people. The musical is a lot more work, because you need everyone to get the parts played out. With the Variety Show it was not as stressful, and students could choose what they wanted to do.”
This Variety Show was the first and may be the only show that is like this As Jesunas stated, “I liked the variety we were able to display with this show; although, I would like to see the tradition of the classic musical continued as well. Because I think there’s something very special about music theater.”
11.28.2019 - 4:10 PM - Noah Schantner
I recently conducted a survey in the Prentice High School about what students are thankful for. It was a fun way of trying to get into the mood for Thanksgiving. The survey received a wide variety of answers from feeling thankful for family and friends, to pets. There was more to it than that though, such as thanking the men and women that have ensured our freedom by serving in our armed forces. Additionally, a lot of homage was paid to the teachers in Prentice. One quote, “I am thankful for the teachers who come to the school loving their jobs and always being cheerful and spreading it to others," summed it up.
On a less serious note, I also traveled around the school and asked for opinions on favorite and least favorite Thanksgiving foods. The general conclusion was that, in Prentice, stuffing is very popular, while canned Cranberry sauce is not. But, just because many are repulsed by canned cranberry sauce, does not mean everyone dislikes it. While Prentice School junior Kaden Hartmann thinks that “Cranberries should not even be brought out during Thanksgiving,” PHS English teacher Christiana Slightham says, “It makes turkey bearable to eat. It gives the moisture it needs.” It would almost seem adding cranberries allows a person to gobble up the turkey. Don’t get too stuffed though.
It’s time to pumpkin spice things up a little bit. Another topic that seems to cause controversy is whether pumpkin pie is good or not. There are some people who say it is the most overrated part of Thanksgiving, and others who will say it’s underrated. I got a few people from the school to share their fillings about pumpkin pie: Junior, Lauren Lallemont, says, “It’s in the top three for desserts.” Yet an anonymous PHS teacher has an opposite opinion on the subject: “I like pumpkin bars and pumpkin rolls, but I just do not like pumpkin pie.” While this gives everybody pumpkin to talk about, there’s still no clear consensus as to it's value. Baste on all of the survey's replies, staff and students are passionate about Thanksgiving.
Regardless of what you have on your plate, have a Happy Thanksgiving!
11/21/2019 - 3:23 PM - Lauren Lallemont
On October 8, some PSD students and staff went to the Sources of Strength workshop at NTC in Phillips. At this workshop, they were educated about the new program. Sources of Strength is a leadership organization that has a mission to prevent suicide and create solid relationships between staff and students. Not only did several students from Prentice go, but students and staff members from Phillips got involved as well. Many different activities and events happened here to get students involved and working together. The staff also got their fair share of fun activities at the workshop as well. For more information on the workshop and everything that went down, check out Kelly Hueckman’s article.
Since this workshop, a new Sources of Strength Awareness Campaign has come to the Prentice High School. For this campaign, students and staff come in with a friend, grab a whiteboard, and write a positive thing about their partner. After the picture has been taken, new people become nominated to go in and take a picture with a friend of their choice. This has been going on for a few weeks now, and so many different people are getting involved. This has been a great way for everyone to see the good in each other, and it’s always great to see people in our community get involved. Sometimes it can be hard to see the good in one's self, so having someone else easily point out different positive attributes about anyone can really help other students or staff who need to hear it.
“Ultimately, this is a suicide prevention program. I have been fortunate enough to never have a student in a school that I taught at die from suicide, and I am very thankful for that. Being a part of this has really made me feel like I am doing as much as I can,” explains Jamie Spagnolo, a Prentice High School English teacher and one of the staff members who attended the Sources of Strength workshop said. “It’s not just about suicide. This program isn’t so heavy, it’s about building a community within our school. It lets everybody know that there’s support, and that there is always someone to talk to. It lets people know that they can come talk to us. We are teachers, but we are also people who just care,” Spagnolo noted.
One of the students who attended the workshop, Kelly Hueckman, is a senior at PHS, is involved with this campaign as well. “It can be hard for some people to say nice things about themselves, so hearing other people say nice things about them can be like a confidence booster. I’m proud of being part of the group and being able to help spread the positivity around,” Hueckman said. 14 other students attended the workshop at NTC as well, ranging from freshmen to seniors. The students who attended were nominated by the staff. The staff believed that this mix of students would be a great group to help get the campaign started and spread it to other students.
One of the goals that Prentice started with was spreading awareness to other schools as well, and fortunately for Prentice, they accomplished this goal quite quickly. “I have been contacted by a few colleagues to get more information about this program. What we want is to spread it through our school, but we’re helping spread it through other schools, too. The coordinator for the Sources of Strength at Ashland Middle School saw my post on my own Facebook of my picture with Kaden Hartmann, and then they contacted me about the campaign for more information. Now they have taken on their own whiteboard campaign, which is so great. It’s really cool to see it spread throughout other schools,” said Jackie Franzoi, Prentice School District’s school counselor and one of the Sources of Strength advisors. “I think I’m good at my job, but it really is nice to hear it sometimes. That’s all a lot people really need is a little reassurance,” Franzoi stated. After Franzoi met with some other local school counselors from Phillips School District and Chequamegon School District, the Sources of Strength idea came about. Lynn Granberg, another Sources of Strength advisor, has been contributing to this program as well. “I think that it’s really cool to see this program spread throughout the other schools. I love seeing that it gets a lot of students and staff involved. This whole program is really great. It’s such a simple way to spread lots of positivity throughout our school,” Granberg stated. Alongside Spagnolo, Granberg, and Franzo attendees included Amy Ring, Carol Heikkinen, and Melissa Pilgrim.
In addition to the photo campaign, Prentice High School has been engaging in 21 Days of Gratitude throughout November. To display this exercise, a paper turkey in the Prentice Commons has been erected. Every Thursday so far this month students and staff fill out paper feathers. They write what they are thankful for on their feathers, and the new feathers get added onto the turkey each week. The turkey has shown lots of variety, and it can be very interesting to see what kids are thankful for the most. Students and staff have really enjoyed getting involved, and the positivity is really starting to show more throughout every day. “I would like this campaign to go out to every corner of our school and just get out and reach everyone,” Spagnolo noted. As for the future for the Sources of Strength at Prentice, there are plans for more campaigns throughout the year, and hopefully going into future school years for future students to get involved.
For more information on Sources of Strength, visit the website at the Sources of Strength website or contact Jackie Franzoi at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit PHS social media on Instagram and Facebook to see more pictures from the campaign.
11/20/2019 - 3:44 PM - Vivian Gehring
In August of 2020, two students from the Prentice School District will be traveling to Zittau, a city in Germany, for a four-week-long foreign exchange program. They will spend these four weeks with a host family who may or may not speak English. Learning the ways and traditions of the way of life in Zittau. Bridgett Hoffman and Lydia Holm are the two Prentice High School students who were chosen to go to Zittau, the last step being for the school board to approve of the decision. Hoffman, noted, “My feelings are mixed, but I am very excited to experience and see new things. Although I am a little bit nervous about being by myself.”
On October 14th, two students from Zittau, traveled to the small town of Prentice bringing August Friedrich, a former exchange student's, dream to life. August was a foreign exchange student for the whole year in 2013 from Zittau. Heather Mayer a friend of Friedrich and the History teacher at Prentice High School stated that, “he saw what we have to offer and wanted others from his home town to experience it as well.” The ZiPP program which stands for Zittau Prentice Program was made possible by Friedrich, who had to jump through many hoops and red tape to make this foreign exchange program possible. “The original German plan,” Mayer states, “was to send ten students from Germany and have ten students from Prentice go over to Germany, and considering out small school we would be missing most of the students, so we would have had to include another local school to make up the numbers.” Friedrich only wanted to involve the Prentice School District, so they came to the solution that two students would travel to Germany and two would travel to Prentice. This solution was brought to the Prentice School Board who agreed, along with the German school's administration who also agreed and the plan was set into motion.
The ZiPP program, according to the packet that was given to students interested in the program, is used to help students experience an exchange independent of their parent's income. This program gives students a lasting experience, that not only strengthens the cultural exchange between the United States and Germany but supports students who are active members of their community to experience something greater in the world. This program is not for high school seniors, but for students who will be able to bring back their experiences and share with the school for at least one more full year. The program for the Prentice side includes both attendance at Christian Weise Prep School and living with a host family. The round trip airfare along with spending money, insurance, and passport will not be included and the students must work to raise money for such items. The requirements for this program are that the students chosen must be an active community member, interested in different cultures, 14 or older, and have good English speaking skills. The students who are interested, fill out an application, which includes having a two-page paper that the applicant must write about themselves, and why they want to have this experience. They are also taken into a private room and interviewed by the principal, a school board member, and two teachers to determine who out of the applicants will be going to Germany. Hoffman described the process as, “It wasn’t that hard, but it wasn’t that easy.” Although the foreign exchange program is for students to be independent learning about the culture and life in another country, the students will be in contact with a program leader as a contact person. The students as they go to another country are prohibited from drinking alcohol and doing drugs, and must follow local laws. The student could be dismissed from the exchange program at their guardian's expense if such action against the rules occurs. Germany follows the same rules.
Zittau students interested in the ZiPP program completed an application and and interview that took about five hours. Ending with the students Isabel Dyk and Timmo Naumann as the two students chosen to travel to Prentice Wisconsin. The students took about twenty seven hour trip traveling by car from their hometown Zittau to the airport in Dresden. From there they flew to Zurich, Switzerland. Later hitting the skies to fly to Chicago and then onto Wausau, eventually arriving in Prentice where they met their host families. They both expressed the trip as being exciting. As the days went on. both Naumann and Dyk went through new experiences. Dyk had one of these experiences on her first day of high school in America, “being in this Highschool,” she stated, “is very different compared to my school in Germany. Choosing new classes is especially a new thing for me.” The foreign exchange students have already done a variety of activities on their stay. They went to Chicago for a weekend experiencing the city life in America. Additionally, they attended a football and a volleyball game. The students also traveled to well-known places near Prentice such as Tim’s Hill and Big Falls. During their school hours, they took part in community service with the rest of the student body and went on a few field trips. All in all, what the students felt that what they most enjoyed was the people. Naumann and Dyk headed back to Zittau on the ninth of November with several new friends sad to see them go.
Melissa Pilgrim, the principal at Prentice High School, noted:. “We will continue to do this exchange program with Germany and are always open to exchange students from around the world to come to Prentice.” Pilgrim stated, “We will continue to ask families in the school and community to volunteer to become a host families in the future to help continue the program.”
11/14/2019 - 4:03 PM - Hannah Raab
In 2018, 29.7 million children in the United States were provided with reduced-cost or free lunches daily. For many of these children, school lunches may be the only meals they eat. The question is What do they eat on the weekends? The last thing children should have to worry about when they go home for the weekend is having enough to eat. In our district alone, 46.86 percent of the students are approved to participate in the free or reduced-cost lunch program. Students are provided with nourishment during the week through the help of the free and reduced lunch program, but what are these kids eating when school provided lunches are not available?
To help combat the issue of hunger in our community, Kaye Erickson, the Prentice School District 4K-8 and Special Education Administrative Assistant, started The Fill-a-Belly Program. The idea for the name of the program came from a similar program called “Fill a Backpack.” Erickson liked the idea of the name, but was interested in filling a belly. This program works to help the kids who may not otherwise have enough food to eat on the weekends. When the children are getting enough to eat over the weekend, they can return to school Monday morning, well-nourished, focused, and ready to learn.
Erickson first got the idea for this program when a little boy in the school was not happy about Winter Break. While Erickson was excited about the thoughts of food, family, and gifts to come, she realized the boy would have none of these things. Over the break, she continued to think about him and what she could do to help. Understandably, it would be difficult for children to want to go home for a holiday break when they know they won’t receive regular meals. Realizing the situation some children were in, was the starting point for the Fill-a-Belly program.
She hopes that this program will be able to help families in tough situations. Erickson said, “I care about the kids in our school. I want each one to be successful. If they come to school not worried about food, maybe they can shift their attention to learning. Also, I hope that someday they will pay it forward and help someone in need because someone showed them kindness.”
In the beginning of the year, a letter was sent home with all the students, asking if the family could benefit from additional food on the weekends. If they returned the form, the family would receive a backpack. The child will bring the backpack filled with food home on Friday and will then return the backpack on Monday for a refill for the next weekend. The contents of the backpack can vary with the availability and the donations. The backpack tries to help with two meals, a box of cereal, a can of fruit, and some snacks, per each child in the home. The children have been very thankful and appreciative of the backpacks they are receiving. The kids are not only thankful, but have said that they love the snacks they receive in the backpacks. Erickson said, “I do this for the kids. It makes me happy when they are happy.” To fill the backpacks weekly, it costs approximately five dollars per child, and the school is currently sending out twenty-eight backpacks weekly that provide food for fifty-two children. Kaye said that, “I would have been surprised [that kids are going hungry in our community] before I started working in the school, but now I am much more aware of our families’ needs. Many families just need a little extra help.”
The Fill-a-Belly program is privately funded through donations, grants, and fundraisers, as well as, being supported by some of the local churches in the communities. One of the local churches supporting the Fill-a-Belly program is the First Lutheran Church of Ogema. They have a collection box set up inside the church where members can drop off food donations. They also have collected special offerings to collect money to donate to the program. Two of the most recent fundraisers in the community included a booth selling t-shirts and wood crafts at the Christmas Tree Festival and a donation night at one of the Prentice Volleyball games. Erickson said, “The fundraisers have been wonderful. We live in a very generous community that truly cares about our children. Each time we are involved in something, more people come forward and want to help. We are so lucky to be in a small community where people care about one another.” The volleyball fundraiser was special to Erickson because she didn’t even know about it. The volleyball team organized the fundraiser on their own. Volleyball player, Kaelyn Isaacson, said, “A lot of times we when we think of people in need, we think of people outside the country. I realize that we are in an area where some people need help, and we can start by helping to make an impact in the lives of the people in our own area.” The money that the Fill-a-Belly program receives from donations is used to purchase food from Feed My People, which is located in Eau Claire. Feed My People is a local food bank that works to provide hunger-relief programs with with access to millions of pounds of low-cost foods. The cost-effective partnerships between Feed My People and hunger-relief programs help thousands of people each month across communities. The Feed My People program sends a semi to the school to deliver the food. Any of the food that has not been received in other ways, will then be privately purchased.
Fill-a-Belly is currently receiving some wonderful help from within the school from clubs and organizations. Some members of the National Honor Society help to pack the backpacks and stock the shelves with food, as one example of volunteer help at school. Additionally, if anyone is interested in doing a fundraiser or putting up a donation box to help support the Fill-a-Belly program, please contact Kaye Erickson at the Prentice School District. The biggest way anyone can help the program is by giving monetary donations. Food donations are greatly appreciated, but surprisingly the food is much cheaper to purchase through Feed My People than it is for others to purchase and donate. Generous community donations are an essential way to support this beneficial program, which helps keep our local kids fed and prepares them to learn better-one backpack at a time.