Students at Nativity find ways to help the world
Often books inspire readers to go out into the world to explore and conquer. For an eighth-grader in Orchard Park, a book made her want to help others and invite them in.
Inspired by Jasmine Warga’s “Other Words from Home,” Delaney Gradwell started a service club at Nativity of Our Lord School that raises money for Afghan refugees coming into the United States.
“The main character in (‘Other Words from Home’) was a refugee from Syria. It made me realize a lot of things that I didn’t really know,” Delaney said. “I didn’t watch the news enough to know that there were so many refugees coming to the U.S. So, when I saw there would be lots of refugees coming because of U.S. troops moving out of Afghanistan, I wanted to do something to help those refugees. I knew they would have to go through a lot of struggles when they arrive here, and even just to get here, so I wanted to make it easier for them.”
Delaney and her friends made flag pins from safety pins and beads that they sold to their fellow students along with a written note explaining the dangers refugees face. When someone asks about the pins, the students could explain the cause and raise awareness. They also sold stickers with the Afghan flag on them and phrases such as “Supporting Kindness.”
When the Russian-Ukraine War began, they decided to help the innocent victims there as well. Money raised from a dress down day went to a priest who spoke at St. John the Baptist in Alden, the parish of religion teacher Kathy Esack. The money will be sent to a parish in Ukraine.
The Nativity Service Club also sponsored a “Rock Your Socks Day” on March 21, for World Down Syndrome Awareness. They were inspired by the fifth-grade teacher, Danielle Buncy, whose son has Down Syndrome. The club of about 10 members handed out Down Syndrome awareness stickers and created 21 different posters with Down Syndrome facts that they hung up around the school. The money raised purchased a book called “You are Enough: A Book About Inclusion” by Margaret O’Hair, which was donated to the school library, and read to every class. Another $138 collected was donated to the Down Syndrome Parent Group of Western New York.
“Basically, we pick a cause and we decide what can we do to help,” explained Delaney. “Most of the time it involves raising money, but sometimes it involves raising awareness. Like me, some people might not know these are problems; so, they can learn about it and maybe they will want to do something that will fix it too.”
At the end of the school year they had a last attempt at fundraising.
“We are going to do a summer blow out. All the things that we still have left over, we will sell, so we will have more money to help more people,” explained Evie Gradwell, Delaney’s young sister.
As the senior leadership graduates this year and moves on to high school, it will be Evie and her friends, currently in fifth grade, who will keep the club going next year. “I think we’re going to focus on getting more people to join,” she said.
The others plan on seeing where they can put their knowledge and experience to best use in high school.
“I just want to do whatever I can to help,” Delaney said. “If someone brings something up, then I will definitely help out.”
Jack Griffin will head to St. Francis High School in Athol Springs. He’s heard the Franciscan-run school does a lot of local projects. He would like to expand that work with projects to help Ukraine and Afghanistan.
It’s interesting to see the influence of one book can make young teenagers start to change the world.
“I like that we can help people, not just in our community, but in the world,” said eighth-grader Hannah Makin. “It’s not just about us. We can help other people who are different from us.”