Junior high students help those in need

Students at Conway Junior High showed their school spirit in a unique way – collecting non-perishable food items to help those in need during the holidays.

The collection drive was planned and implemented by the school’s student council, with help from assistant principal Pam Ferguson who came up with the idea last year. It was held in conjunction with the school’s annual Spirit Week leading up to a Blue-White football game.

“The food drive helps us all come together for one cause,” Ferguson said.

Ninth grade student council president Hannah Ferguson said this is the second year for the school to partner with CAPCA (Community Action Program for Central Arkansas) on the food drive. “We’re really excited about this,” adding that the project gives students an opportunity to reach out into the community and have an impact. “We want people to be more aware that there are those in our community who are having a problem.”

Last year, one classroom alone collected more than 1,000 boxes of macaroni and cheese.

This year, the class collecting the most items was art students taught by Megan Williams, who collected 352 food items.

Planning for the food drive began right after student council elections at the beginning of the semester. Ninth grade vice president Miller Myers said the student council organized the project and provided boxes for each classroom.

While students were challenged to bring canned good items for the holiday food boxes that would be distributed through CAPCA, faculty and staff were asked to donate items that would be given to senior citizens. Ferguson cited a recent news report that Arkansas ranked No. 1 in starving elderly population.

Ferguson said most students don’t see or understand the difficulties their classmates face and that some junior high students may benefit directly from the food drive.. She recalled an incident where a family member asked if her student could stay at school and get lunch before leaving one day. “I knew if he didn’t eat in the cafeteria, he wouldn’t eat that day.”

Melissa McWilliams, community programs director at CAPCA, described the food collected by the students as a “phenomenal amount.” She said some items will be pulled out for use in the holiday food boxes, with the remaining items used to replenish the bare shelves in the agency’s food pantry. The $40 that was donated will be used to purchase turkeys for the boxes.

“The food drive was crucial for us,” she said. “We were able to help a lot of families.”

McWilliams was appreciative of the efforts. “We want to thank the students and faculty. It is important for them to understand the impact they are making.”