FHS and ECU team up to help community

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published February 15, 2017

WARREN — The Fitzgerald High School leadership class has made a difference in the community this year through a project called “Everyone has a STORY.”

The students — under the direction of teacher Sara Sonnenfeld, and with the financial help of Extra Credit Union in Warren — recently donated $1,000 to a local family.

In addition, the leadership students collected nearly 5,400 new and gently used books to donate to Mound Park and Westview elementaries, which are part of Fitzgerald Public Schools.

The $1,000 was given to the family of 18-month-old Elliot Carter, who has been an inspiration to the leadership students. Carter has two rare diseases — Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome — that cause his body to reject food. The $1,000 donation will help with the family’s medical expenses.

According to Extra Credit Union staff members, the leadership students decided to help Carter’s family and also hold a book drive as their projects for the end of the semester in December. The students asked the credit union for financial help to ensure their projects were successful.

“Our community projects cover a broad spectrum of efforts that allow and encourage our staff and members to give back to the community around us,” Extra Credit Union President and CEO Deidra Williams said in a prepared statement. “This one hit home for us for a number of reasons, but ultimately it allows us to keep the legacy of supporting education alive. We were able to do that by supporting these future leaders in their compassionate effort to help a young boy who will continue to need medical treatments for the foreseeable future, but also to support one of their own, a Fitzgerald alum. These kids have big hearts.”

Elliot Carter’s mom attended Fitzgerald.

Credit union staff members said they would give the leadership students $1 for every gently used and new book they brought in, up to $1,000, for the Carter family. According to the credit union, the leadership students collected 5,379 books, including nearly 1,600 that credit union staff members donated. Every student at Mound Park and Westview schools received four or five new books, which Sonnenfeld said were delivered in person by the students.

Leadership students Jordan Shaw, Autumn Lewis, Brittany McKennie, Ja’net Johnson, Tone’ Oglesby, Silvania Askhira and Simone Greene created a public service announcement  called “Glitch”: Support FPIES and Mast Cell Disease” that can be viewed on YouTube at atu3OPEQJDdh0. The video shows the family at home, including images of the young Carter eating ice chips with a spoon.

In an effort to boost Carter’s spirits, leadership students Janee Brewer, Angel Chenault, Jazmira Cabil, Jason Carter and Steven Dunmire wrote the book “A Smile That Saved The World.” The book, illustrated and colored by Robert Xiong and KeChe’ Butler, tells the story of a young boy named Elliot, also known as “Captain Super Smile.” The students presented the Carter family with a copy of the book.

Xiong and Brewer both thought the project was a success and appreciated the credit union staff’s support.

“It went beyond our expectations,” said Xiong, a senior. “We wanted to (collect) 1,000 books and we (collected) more than 5,000. It was great. It was really fulfilling. It really gave the school a sense of community.”

“I’m all for any kind of service,” said Brewer, who added that the Westview and Mound Park students’ faces lit up when the FHS students dropped off the books. “We thought we should help the kids.”

In leadership class, the students work on a variety of projects.

“We get to work on our skills and our leadership. We have speakers. We do activities in a group and on our own,” Brewer said. “We learn to always lead with your heart.”