From the left, Duncan Elementary fifth-grader Vasyo Dutko, teacher Stacie Oyster, sixth-grader Soren Wierbicki, fifth-grader Leah Clower, teacher Nancy Troyanovich and student Ava Skonieczny gather around canned goods that students donated for a holiday season campaign.

From the left, Duncan Elementary fifth-grader Vasyo Dutko, teacher Stacie Oyster, sixth-grader Soren Wierbicki, fifth-grader Leah Clower, teacher Nancy Troyanovich and student Ava Skonieczny gather around canned goods that students donated for a holiday season campaign.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Students learn lessons doing holiday charity

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 7, 2018

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Activism and academics go together for Duncan Elementary School sixth-grader Soren Wierbicki.

As her school’s student council president and a member of a student community group called DC Squared, 11-year-old Wierbicki said she likes to use her leadership skills to make a difference. And now she’ll have plenty of opportunities, thanks to the holiday season.

“When I feel like I’m making a difference, it makes me feel great inside,” she said. “It makes me feel good inside because now I know someone else has something. … Just putting a smile on someone’s face is such an amazing gift.”

According to Utica Community Schools spokesman Tim McAvoy, students from the district’s schools will collectively take part in an estimated 200 charity drives during the holiday season.

Among the high schools, examples of activities include sending holiday letters to soldiers, crafting wooden toys for a children’s hospital and putting together gingerbread houses with local seniors. A few of the many charities that will benefit include the American Red Cross, UNICEF, the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, and local soup kitchens.

Duncan Elementary School Principal Sharon Coil praised her students and DC Squared for their initiative to serve and “leave the world a little better than you found it.”

“Serving others is a noble calling,” she said.

Coil mentioned that Duncan students are involved with a Coats 4 Kids campaign, as well as a campaign to collect toys and clothes for families in need. She said Duncan is also doing a food drive for the Shelby Lions Club, and it’s involved in Operation Christmas Child, which involves shipping shoeboxes full of supplies to children throughout the world.

Wierbicki named another event that she is excited to do.

“In December, we are going to be doing Moonbeams for Sweet Dreams at the Royal Oak Beaumont Hospital,” she said. “The kids will get a flashlight. Now (young patients) will know that someone is thinking of them when they see a light shine up.”

Stacie Oyster, a Duncan  fifth-grade teacher and a DC Squared liaison, said the group is around 10 years old and has around 200 students affiliated with it — though they don’t all work on the same project or at the same time.

She doesn’t have to do a lot of prodding to get DC Squared members to volunteer for projects.

“These kids have a heart of gold, and it’s just giving them an opportunity to do what’s always inside of them,” she said.

Oyster said DC Squared has had a lasting impact on past students, adding that they learn that it’s better to give than receive in most cases.

“I had one of my first students that ever did this … she went from that to actually creating her own charity initiative, and she took it to her junior high and into high school,” she said. “She ran with it, collecting shoes.”

Find out more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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