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The City Journals

Bell View holds fundraiser to help Puerto Rico hurricane victims receive solar-power lights

May 07, 2018 11:49AM ● By Julie Slama

Bell View Elementary students donated money to Light Up Puerto Rico to help pay for solar-power lights and generators for communities that lack electricity after the hurricane. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

When Bell View Elementary students learned Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last fall, which has been regarded as the worst natural disaster on record, they wanted to help.

“The kids wanted to do something right after the hurricane, but it was too soon to send supplies as it was still very much a disaster,” Principal Chanci Loran said.

While searching for a way to help, fourth-grade teacher and student council adviser Madaline Chilcutt learned Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox was leading the state effort to raise funds to deliver portable power sources and lights to the hurricane-stricken communities since many of them were without electricity for days and months.

“Once we found Light Up Puerto Rico (the group that is collecting donations for the solar-powered lights and generators), our student council decided that was going to be our way to help the citizens of Puerto Rico,” said fifth-grade teacher Brandie Gardner, who also advises student council.

First, they invited Canyons School District’s Alternative Language Services Administrator Analis Carratini-Ruiz to share about her family living in Puerto Rico.

“It was very emotional. She didn’t know how her family was since there was no power,” Gardner said, adding that they also watched video on YouTube of the disaster.

That led to student discussions from what is a generator to how students would feel if a disaster struck their homes and they were to live without power, she said. 

“It was surprising to see how thoughtful and emotional my class was and rewarding it was when they wanted to help,” Gardner said.

To raise cash for the generators and lights, student council organized incentives such as allowing students to chew gum and bringing a stuffed animal to school for 50-cent donations. There was a lunchtime dance party they could participate in for $1 or they could wear a hat for another dollar. The incentive to skip homework was limited to once per week during their fundraising effort Feb. 6–15.

“Some teachers bought tickets for the entire class so all the kids could participate,” Gardner said. The students also sold paper Valentines with candy attached for 50 cents as a way to add to the student incentives.

Their efforts paid off, making $1,200 for Light Up Puerto Rico, surpassing their $1,000 goal.

Depending on which kind of generator is being purchased with their contribution, they may have contributed up to six generators for Puerto Rico victims, Gardner said.

Loran said taking part in Light Up Puerto Rico also was a lesson in empathy.

“Our hope is for our students to think about the needs of others and be willing to help,” she said.