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The City Journals

Students sing telegrams, buy gifts for charity

Feb 09, 2017 08:54AM ● By Bryan Scott

Students stand in long lines to purchase treats for Bennion Junior High School’s fundraiser. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham| [email protected]

Students at Bennion Junior High stood in several lines during a recent lunch period to spend money for people in need. Charity Week, run by the student government officers, cheerleaders, Peer Leadership Team members and advisers Hailey Newton and Pamela Hunter, took place for one week in December.

Several tables around the lunch room provided students with choices of what to buy: roses, candy, cookies and singing telegrams—with all money earned going to pay for a sub-for-Santa project.

Seventh-grader Truman Owen said he liked buying items to give to his friends and getting treats from them in return. He especially liked the big frosted sugar cookies. Those were the most popular item sold, according to Newton. She cleaned several retailers out of the pink cookies to restock throughout the week.

Another popular item was the singing telegram. Students had several carols to choose from, with lyrics about friendship or love written to familiar Christmas tunes. Taya Shaw, a seventh-grader, spent $2 on a singing telegram for her best friend, Emily. Members of student government performed the songs for the recipients and their entire eighth period classes.

  “They do a little dancing and sing in the most embarrassing way possible,” said Taya.

There were about 70 students involved in running Charity Week. Some, like Shamrah Swindlehorst, who has been in student government all her three years at Bennion, had worked Charity Week before. For others, like Hunter Smith, it was their first one. The students rotated shifts so that they didn't miss more than one or two classes. 

“Everybody enjoys doing it. We love to help to give to charity,” said Marcus Newton, a ninth-grade officer.

“The money that we earn from Charity Week, we use it to buy gifts for kids who aren't going to get a Christmas,” explained ninth-grader McKay Cherry. 

New this year was an improved system for collecting money. Marcus and his friend Ian Oliver developed a punch-card system one day into the demanding week. They figured the money was going to the same account in the end and collecting cash at five different tables was more complicated than it needed to be. The punch card option simplified the cash transactions to a single table. 

Once the money was collected, student government and PLT students paired up to purchase gifts. The charity provided a list of needs and wants for individuals. Hailey Newton believes this activity gives her students an opportunity to appreciate what they have. They are often surprised when they see what people ask for, especially children. It widens their perspective of the world, she said. 

Hunter, the PLT adviser, said through this activity students get a chance to consider what other people value. It is a chance for these teenagers to look outside themselves. She said it’s touching to see these popular and macho teenage boys getting excited about picking out cute little girl toys and outfits.

After shopping, the students wrapped and delivered the gifts.

“We have bags and bags for those without an opportunity to have a Christmas," said Newton. “It impacts these guys and spreads through the school. A lot of good is done.”

Charity Week is not the PLT’s biggest activity of the year, but Hunter said it's definitely one of their favorites. 

“They like service,” she said.

In the week leading up to Charity Week, there was a daily reminder for students to gather their money. Student government officers also made two YouTube videos to get the school excited about the project.

Marcus said the project was successful because the students were very supportive in spending their money to buy the items for sale.

 “I think a lot of them know what it's for, but on top of that, they really enjoy the treats,” he said.