It’s only fitting that the Stelly’s Secondary School Global Gala happened just as we all begin the Christmas season, a season characterized by goodwill and generosity.
The Nov. 20 Gala was hosted by Stelly’s Secondary School and featured entertainment, information, refreshments and a gigantic silent auction. All proceeds were earmarked for the school’s Global Perspectives project for 2014.
That project, the construction of a school as well as a water storage system in an impoverished region of Fiji, will now receive the more than $25,000 raised by the students at the Gala — funds that will make the project a reality.
It’s not the program’s first project, either.
The Global Perspectives program at Stelly’s has epitomized selfless giving for 15 years, a remarkable history, in anybody’s books.
Stelly’s Global Perspectives Program, which shares a name with other educational ventures in Canada and the U.S.A. is unique in that it goes beyond simply imbuing high school students with an awareness of the world around them.
“This program really allows students to make a difference in their world,” said Tim Storm, teacher and program leader. “In Grade 11 the students in the program concentrate on local issues like homelessness and hunger. They regularly serve meals at Our Place and have done fund raising that has contributed to addressing local issues.”
By Grade 12, the students expand their focus to examine the plight of people around the world. According to Storm, past projects have included the construction of six schools, the building of a hospital and cancer treatment centre in Belize, the development of a family centre in Cuba and the a building of an orphanage in Haiti.
And the program isn’t just about raising money.
Every spring, students travel to their project site where they roll up their sleeves and get to work building the projects they’ve funded. This year, 32 students and four supervisors will travel to Fiji where they will both construct the school and learn about both the local culture and the social issues affecting that part of the world.
“The really amazing thing is that these young people have done all of this with absolutely a zero budget,” said Storm. “They contribute their passion and energy and the community contributes through donations of raffle items, the purchase of Gala Tickets, and some cash donations. But all of that is only possible because these young people are out there organizing, promoting and making it happen.”
Sarah Grunert, one of the co-coordinators of this year’s senior project, made her decision to attend Stelly’s Secondary School based upon the existence of the program.
“I looked at other high schools for things like sports, but in the end this program made the decision for me,” she said, adding that she’s always been interested in giving back to the community — and to the world.
“It’s really all about making other people smile,” said Grunert.
“If you have a passion for something, you have to transform that and try to communicate that and find others to share that passion. Global Perspectives lets me do precisely that.”
Carl Haynes, the program’s other student co-coordinator, said that the program has also created a unique bond between students at the school.
“I walk down the hall and I know the Grade 11 kids and we’re all working on the same goal. The seniors are helping to pass along our experience and knowledge … .so they can do the same next year.”
According to Storm, Stelly’s is the only high school that is actually attacking the problems around the world in a hands-on way.
“I’ve tried to spread the word to other schools, and I know the students have done the same, but so far we’re the only ones taking this direct approach,” said Storm. “But it’s a lot of work and it takes up a lot of time, that’s for sure.”
Storm hopes that, eventually, other high schools will adopt the Stelly’s Secondary Global Perspectives model.
“Imagine if every grad class in Canada took on a project like this … man, we could make a change,” he said.
— Tim Collins/News Contributor