The Severna Park High School (SPHS) leadership program has built a reputation for excellence in community service. Each of the classes, one through three, takes on multiple projects throughout the year. Leadership II classes, which include 76 students this year and are taught by Beth Colon, have participated in the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Kids for Wish Kids Youth fundraiser for the past seven years. This year, the students broke the SPHS fundraising record and raised $27,000 for Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic.
“Without being able to spread our energy in person, I didn't know what to expect, but I never expected us to be able to hand over a bigger check this year,” said Colon. “I'm fortunate to work with such an incredible group of students and in a community that supports them so whole-heartedly.”
The Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic chapter is headquartered in Bethesda and grants life-changing wishes to children with critical illnesses in this region. One wish can be granted with $10,000, so this year, the SPHS fundraising team funded close to three wishes.
“I just think that they support something that is so unique, and they do such a good job,” said SPHS junior and Leadership II student Fletcher Port. “I've got a lot of admiration for what they do, and it's definitely an organization I'm proud to know we supported this cause in such a large way.”
The students set out to raise $21,000 for the year 2021, but Port believed that this would be the year that they surpassed the school’s $26,000 record.
“I am optimistic,” Port said before the final numbers were revealed. “I definitely think that we've got the determination to make it there.”
Each student had their own fundraising page that they could advertise on social media and reached out to local businesses for sponsorships.
“Some students have even taken advantage of their small businesses,” said Port. “We had one kid who was making stained wooden signs for people for a while, and then he decided to charge a little bit extra, and all those funds will go to Make-A-Wish.”
COVID-19 was a big obstacle for this leadership class. In previous years, Wish Week would have included many in-person events outside and inside the classroom.
“This year, we planned a virtual Wish Week since we began planning in February and did not know what the spring would hold,” said Colon. “The week included online fundraising, shirt sales, virtual bingo and trivia sessions, restaurant nights and a spirit week.”
Wish Week looked different, but the students were still able to attend restaurant nights and other in-person events, and everything else shifted to the virtual platform. Port said that the pandemic motivated the students to work harder.
“I think that we just have a really good group of hustlers this year in the class, and that's worked really well to get us to our goal and where we're at now,” said Port.
From this fundraiser, students gained real-world experience in project management, hosting events, establishing connections and raising funds. More importantly, they worked together to make a difference in the lives of children with critical illnesses.
“More than anything, I hope that the students learned what a big impact they can make and the power that young people have to make a difference in their communities,” said Colon.