Food drives reflects American spirit

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David Ricks, left, is handed a Thanksgiving box by Rocky Mount High School student Keyanna Spivey, on Tuesday at Rocky Mount High School.

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By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Thanksgiving outreach efforts of two local schools has brought a new perspective of America to one new immigrant to the Twin Counties.

Students at Rocky Mount High School and West Edgecombe Middle School packed boxes to provide much-needed meals to needy families in the community this Thanksgiving. For Hania Zarib, who began attending Rocky Mount High School this year after coming to the United States from Sweden, the whole notion of Thanksgiving is a new concept. However, the food drive has helped her understand more about the holiday and the spirit of America.

“When I first came, I thought that America was very economically segregated,” Zarib said. “However, this event has changed my view of the community. This shows that people understand each other and are there for each other when they need to be.”

Like the first Thanksgiving, Zarib sees how the holiday tends to bring cultures together.

“This is a very American holiday,” she said. “I have never seen quite anything like it in other cultures. I see how unity can come from diversity.”

Students at Rocky Mount High School and West Edgecombe Middle School have been collecting food items for Operation Thanksgiving Outreach for weeks. They also have been collecting money to provide frozen turkeys for needy families in the area. This week, student leaders at the two schools assembled boxes filled with turkey and all the fixings so that families in the area who might otherwise go hungry can feast at Thanksgiving.

Betsy Hester, who directs the International Baccalaureate program at Rocky Mount High School, said juniors and seniors in the program worked with members of the Student Government Association to challenge school clubs to contribute. The result was that Rocky Mount High School was able to provide meals for 131 needy families this Thanksgiving.

Claude Archer, principal of West Edgecombe Middle School, said the Student Government Association at his school led the collection effort. The result was that the school was able to distribute roughly 75 boxes this year, which is more than double the 35 Thanksgiving boxes the school prepared last year.

Hester and Archer worked together on this project three years ago when Archer was assistant principal at Rocky Mount High School. When Archer left last year to captain his own academic ship at West Edgecombe, the two school leaders decided to carry on the project at each school and to coordinate efforts to make the project most effective.

“Our two schools decided we wanted to continue making a difference in the community,” Archer said.

Hester said the project reflects the ideals of the International Baccalaureate program.

“IB is based on the idea of global mindedness and the development of character and compassion,” Hester said.

Archer also feels the food drive benefits the participating students at his school as well the community members who receive their bounty.

“Efforts like this teach students to be leaders in the community. They see how they have have a positive impact and help build a better community,” Archer said.

West Edgecombe Middle School student Genysys Scott, 12, said the project helped open her eyes to the needs of people around her.

“My first reaction was that I did not realize this many people really needed food,” Scott said.

Eric Moore, 17, SGA senior class president at Rocky Mount High School, said he feels efforts like this help bring people hope.

“There is not much positive happening on this side of Rocky Mount,” Moore said. “I think this is a great thing for people to see.”

Rocky Mount student Alexis McCowan, 17, said the effort was a way to demonstrate compassion for those in need.

“This allows us to reach out to the community and show them that we do care and we want to help anyway we can,” McCowan said.