The students of Troy High School, pictured, celebrated their Activist Week festivities culminating in “The Big Reveal” Feb. 9.

The students of Troy High School, pictured, celebrated their Activist Week festivities culminating in “The Big Reveal” Feb. 9.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Troy High and Athens support community through annual Activist Week and Charity Week celebrations

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published February 21, 2024

 Troy Athens Principal Vernon Burden volunteered to take an ice bath in support of the school’s Activist Week festivities.

Troy Athens Principal Vernon Burden volunteered to take an ice bath in support of the school’s Activist Week festivities.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


TROY — Troy and Athens high school students showed off their school spirit this month with their Activist Week and Charity Week programs, spirit weeks in which they raise money for worthy nonprofits.

Troy High School held its Activist Week starting Feb. 5, finishing with The Big Event Feb. 9, during which they unveiled the total amount raised for their selected nonprofit, the Troy-based On My Own.

Senior Jayla Turner, the school’s student government director of communications, said that they wanted to continue evolving the event and ensuring that it was something everyone at the school felt a part of.

“This year, as a district, we’ve focused on making this a place where everybody belongs. That is our message and our goal,” said Turner. “This year, we definitely wanted to connect more with the nonprofit we’re working with, so they are here at the final event. They came to almost everything this week and saw what we were doing. We changed the ‘Mr. Troy High’ competition to ‘Troy’s Got Talent.’ It went from what was more of a popularity contest to something where people could showcase their talents and just have fun.”

More than $38,822 was raised for On My Own during Activist Week. The Troy High student government members selected On My Own as their nonprofit this year because of the solidarity they felt with its mission of aiding people with developmental disabilities and because it is a part of the Troy community.

“They have a lot of Troy High School alumni that are part of the organization,” said Turner. “We’ve created a culture around our (developmentally disabled) students where we love them and want to embrace them and have fun with them. We want them to feel safe with us and can be themselves with us. They have a team of their own, the Unified Team, and more students show up to support that team than any of our others.”

On My Own representatives were on hand at most of the Activist Week events and said they were thrilled to have the school’s support in their mission.

“We’ve been around for 26 years,” said Emily Lourim, On My Own’s director of education. “On My Own supports individuals with developmental disabilities gain independence and live independently. We support all things that teach them to live independently or support those who are living independently, some for more than 20 years.”

Lourim said receiving support from Troy High School was especially meaningful, since she is an alumna.

“I was a Troy High student, and it is much bigger now. It is exciting to see the growth,” she said. “They’ve added a lot more activities and games for the students to be a part of. It’s a lot more interactive. From the organizational side, it’s really cool to be involved in this way and for the students at On My Own to get involved with the students at Troy High. … I love the Splash Bash and the Survivor Challenge that they do on the last day.”

Athens held its Charity Week festivities Feb. 12-16, with an equal variety of activities that support the Love for a Child nonprofit, which aids those in foster care.

“On Monday we had our pancake breakfast, and after school we had our Espresso Yourself coffee house night,” said Student Council President Brooke Lee. “Tuesday was our film fest at school that Athens TV put together. After school was our volleyball tournament. Wednesday at school, there was the Coin Stall, where teachers could not start class until they had counted all of the coins students collected. After school was the Parent Cook-Off and the Mr. Athens Pageant. … Thursday was our Jail and Bail, where students could jail one another and bail each other out of class. We even jailed a bunch of teachers. We had a carnival night that night where kids could participate in games, and that was a lot of fun.”

The week finished with the pep assembly on Friday, where games and other attractions were held and the total amount of money raised was announced.

“We have relay races. We’re dumping ice buckets on our principal. We will announce Teacher Court to see which teacher raised the most money,” said Lee. “We’ll have a dodgeball game we call ‘Combat Ball.’ The Mr. Athens candidates who were fan favorites will perform their routines.”

Lee said that Love for a Child was a cause that connected personally with many at Athens.

“We have an application process that is pretty thorough, and Love for a Child jumped out at us right away,” said Lee. “The second their founder started talking, it captured our attention. The topic of foster care is very close to home for us, since we do have students who go here who either are in foster care or who have been in foster care.”

Love for a Child is a Michigan nonprofit organization that, for the last 18 years, has helped children ages 6 to 12 in foster care who are battling abuse, abandonment and neglect.

“Every year we take 160 children in the foster care system and provide them with a one-week summer camp where they get the opportunity to be children and create childhood memories, since a lot of them had that taken away,” said Joe Savalle, the founder and executive director of Love for a Child. “At the end of the camp, they are enrolled into a one-year mentorship program where they are aligned with a trauma-trained mentor that we provide. They can be tutored, led, mentored for that one year. Because they are in foster care, they might move to different homes throughout the year, and we are committed to following them to every single home they end up in.”

The organization applied to become Athens’ selected nonprofit due to having several of its former students volunteering at Love for a Child and telling them about Charity Week.

“All 160 children applied via their case manager or social worker,” said Savalle. “We receive about 400 applications a year and choose the 160 applicants based on the dire need of their situation. … The funds raised will sponsor more than 100 kids to attend the camp experience free of cost this year and enter into the mentorship program, also for no cost.”

Athens’ total of $166,439 raised for Love for a Child was doubled thanks to a match by Rick Young and his wife, Denise, both supporters of Love for a Child.

“I knew about Troy Athens from years past,” said Young. “Helping them was a no-brainer. We are so ecstatic that we can change children’s lives. What can be better than that?”

More information on On My Own can be found by going to More information on Love for a Child can be found at

“We’re honored to be with Athens High School for Charity Week, because we’ve made calls to other high schools in Michigan to discuss if (contributing) would be something they would ever take on with their own student body, and they said they wouldn’t estimate the results being even a quarter of what Athens has done here,” said Savalle.

“It’s really cool to be a part of this, having been a Troy High student, and to be back in the community that gave me so much during my teenage years,” added Lourim. “It’s also really cool to be supporting On My Own’s mission. Many of our members live independently in Troy, so it’s great to come together to support one another.”