The entire school community at West Hartford’s Hall High School participated in ‘Do Something Day’ on Wednesday, March 9, 2016.
By Ronni Newton
On an unseasonably warm March day it would be hard to top the opportunity to play with a trio of adorable dogs in the courtyard outside West Hartford’s Hall High School cafeteria, but that was just one of the activities that students and staff enthusiastically participated in during “Do Something Day.”
This is the fourth year in a row that the Hall community has planned an array of community service projects, but the format was a bit different this year. “This year we expanded it to everyone,” Student Activities Coordinator Jenny Bronson said.
“Everybody is excited this there that there’s an opportunity to get involved. There’s a much larger participation,” Principal Dan Zittoun said as he and Assistant Principal Shelley Solomon presided over the preparation of 300 sandwiches for Loaves & Fishes in Hartford.
In past years certain groups of students would partake in service projects, and they would be spread out over a whole week. This year, the majority of the activity took place during an expanded advisory period Wednesday morning, and involved the entire student body as well as faculty and staff.
Upstairs in the career center, there were 15 students making no-sew pillows out of fleece fabric. The pillows will be donated to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center as well as to a program who helps people transitioning out of the South Park Inn.
“I feel bad for the children who don’t have what we have here. I just want to take care of the babies,” student Alaychia Tyner said as she tied and stuffed a pillow.
Yurijah Vega said that although making the pillows was a “small gesture,” it’s part of something that has great meaning.
One of the most popular activities of the day was the dog adoption event, an idea that was originated by Cassandra Nowell, a student in science teacher Nicola Culmo’s advisory group.
Because of scheduling, the dogs couldn’t arrive until later, so in advance the students in Culmo’s advisory group prepared peanut butter and oatmeal treats for the canine visitors.
During fourth through seventh period, the dogs were the hit of the Hall campus.
Assistant Principal John Guidry said at first he was surprised so many students were interested in the dog event.
Students were required to present a signed permission slip from a parent or guardian in order to spend time with the dogs, and the ultimate hope was to spark interest in adopting them and other shelter pets. Before the end of sixth period, more than 160 students had already turned in a permission slip and spent time with the pups. Guidry said they had to put the permission slip on the school’s website because so many kids were asking for it.
“It’s soothing and calming for the kids,” Guidry realized. He was also pleased that there was such a cross-section of students visiting with the dogs.
Student Emma Considine quickly bonded with Buster, an 11-year-old lab mix who had been brought to a kill shelter in Long Island when his family didn’t have time for him anymore. She said she was hoping she could adopt him, but wasn’t optimistic because her family already has a dog.
Lisa Smith from Canine Kindergarten in Verplanck, NY, who is a member of the board of directors of rescue group Paws Crossed, brought Buster as well as two other dogs – Aidan and Zulu – to meet the Hall students.
Smith said that Zulu was rescued from the Cayman Islands where dogs are poisoned as a means of animal control. “I feel strongly that every dog needs a home,” she said.
“I will be really curious to see if these dogs are adopted. I think they will be,” said Guidry.
Some of the other “pay it forward” activities Wednesday included putting together care kits with toiletry items and socks, making placements for Meals on Wheels and West Hartford Food Pantry shoppers, and writing letters to wounded warriors.
Materials for the the activities were funded through a variety of sources including the Hall PTO and the Assistant Principals’ Fund. Students, faculty, and staff also donated items like toiletries, and a gift card for the craft items came from an anonymous donor.
“We love doing this, having the chance to give back to the community,” said Zittoun. “Our focus is usually so much on academics and this is a great change of pace.”
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