Sunnyside students dunk principal for playground fundraiser

Sunnyside Elementary’s gymnasium erupted with cheers from students as Principal Amy Yost was dropped into a dunk tank as a part of a fundraiser designed to help build a new playground, while also promoting kindness among the school’s community.

The second year of the dual-fundraisers, Look for the Good and Raise Craze, at Sunnyside Elementary have ended and according to the school’s PTO, parents were all very impressed by the results.

“Parents and students raised over $9,000 this time around,” said PTO President Jessica Scerbo.

With an additional $2,500 being donated from natural gas provider for Shelton, Eversource, the school has put up a chunk of the funds needed to build the approximately $60,000 playground. Despite currently being an estimated $45,000 short of their goal, Scerbo said after a conversation with Mayor Mark Lauretti, she learned that the city would be contributing an undisclosed amount toward the cause.

“We’re also looking into grants to see if they can subsidize some of the money,” said Yost who explained that the additional funds from the city could lead to the playground being built by spring 2018. “It’s really in the best interest of not only our students, but also the community.”

Principal Yost said initially, only 10 kids were supposed to be dunking her, but after hearing the success of the fundraisers for the second year in a row, she doubled that amount. The students who were listed as the top 10 fundraisers and top 10 acts of kindness got to dunk Yost.

“I was floored by the amount of acts of kindness the students completed and the amount of donations they collected so we decided that we should double the amount of kids who would be able to dunk me,” said Yost.

After being taped to a wall last year, dunked 20 times this year, Yost said next year’s incentive for the kids will be taken up a notch.

“I’m always one for just having fun. Elementary schools are heavily focused on academics but we need to keep it fun at the same time because they’re still children,” said Yost. “Stay tuned for next year, we’ve already got some ideas going.”

Interactive approach to fundraising

After a successful pilot year of these two fundraisers, the school’s PTO and Principal Yost agreed that this interactive approach has been beneficial to the school and its students.

“Raise Craze and Look For the Good tie in with one another and both focus on the students showing gratitude and carrying out acts of kindness,” Yost explained.

Raise Craze is an online-based program in which students create profiles and then reach out to their families and friends to collect donations via those profiles.

The catch is the donors aren’t receiving any physical item in return.

Instead, for every donation students collect, they must pay the donor back with an act of kindness. The action doesn’t have to be directed at or include the donor, but focuses more on the student making a positive impact on someone else’s life or community.

Student's applause overpowered the voices of teachers, as the school’s staff showed a video in the gymnasium of the acts of kindness that each student completed as a part of the fundraiser. Some wrote and delivered letters of appreciation to the city’s police station, senior center, and fire departments. Others participated in river cleanup, and collected donations for the Spooner House.

Yost said this fundraiser has taught kids to find compassion for others and to highlight the good deeds of others versus always wanting to be acknowledged for what they’ve done personally.

“The kids love talking about it, whether it’s what they’ve done or just complimenting their peers,” said Yost. “We’re seeing a lot of students building connections.”

“We’re a small elementary school but the students have had a huge impact on us parents,” said Scerbo.

The other half of the school’s fundraising efforts was its student participation in the Look For Good campaign.

The Look For Good requires students to express the things or people they’re thankful for.

Yost explained that in an effort to build on their first year doing the fundraiser, they converted what was a wall-full of things their students are grateful for, into a colorful window-full of things they’re grateful for in the school’s media center.

The Sunnyside principal said the 2,200 or so sticky notes give the window a stained glass feel, that brings warmth into the library.

“It coincides with the purpose of both fundraisers. We want to bring warmth into our hearts and make the kids feel good,” said Yost. “Socially, I think they’re grasping the bigger picture on the world and how they can make positive changes.”

The students also completed a “gratitude letter” at the end of the two week duration of the fundraiser and read it to one person they’re grateful for.

The display inside the school’s media center also features more than 200 decorated rocks, which Yost said will be moved outside of the school in the spring.

“These students are all leaving their marks here at Sunnyside,” said Yost while explaining that she believes that when students are happy and feeling grateful they can achieve more.