Routt students create joy

by Anna Ferraro

It’s not just any day that a group of students bands together and raises over $10,000 for a worthy cause. But the students of Routt Catholic High School (RCHS) have done that, not just once, but twice, through a program called the “JOY Program.” How did this story begin?

We all know the parable of the talents – when several servants in Biblical times were given small amounts of money and instructed to multiply their money. Around five years ago, Jim and Doris Reid, a local couple, decided to try this with their children and grandchildren. Giving them a small sum of money, they instructed them to raise money for the group Food For The Poor, Inc. (FFP) within a set period of time. Through setting up bake sales, doing yard work and more, their kids did it. The experiment was a success! When the family reconvened at the end of their time, they had raised enough money to build two houses in Nicaragua through FFP.

When Stacy Beeley, 7th-grade teacher at RCHS heard about the Reids’ idea, she thought it was brilliant. She invited Doris Reid to come and speak with her 7th grade class. After listening, one of the students asked, “is there any reason why we couldn’t do this?” An idea was born in the youthful classroom, and the Reids made good on the inspiring moment. In November 2014, the Reids returned to RCHS with a challenge – entrusting every 7th and 8th grade student with 20 dollars, they invited them to double their money by Easter of 2015. The challenge was on. And the students ran with it.

With that, RCHS became a busy place. Beeley partnered with another teacher to coordinate a Christmas bazaar. They opened up nights to host paid babysitting at the school. A group of students cut and sold bundles of firewood. Other students volunteered to do yard work and snow shoveling. Beeley and Co. topped off the efforts with a father-daughter dance that was a smashing success. But more than creating successful fundraisers, Beeley commented, “[They] were an opportunity for the kids with their parents to be able to use their gifts/talents in ways that maybe they wouldn’t have done before … and for them to learn new skills together.”

When the classes reconvened in spring 2015, they had raised just under $10,000, almost triple their original goal. A local family’s trust was added to their funds, almost doubling their total, and enabling them to gift Food For The Poor with almost $20,000. The funds helped build homes for needy families in Nicaragua, changing lives in another part of the world. Beeley shared that it changed students, too, saying, “It’s challenging at first. When the students first see their 20 dollars, they wonder, ‘How can that do much?’ But when they use that as their ‘seed money,’ and let it multiply, they understand the power of those 20 dollars.” And it’s not a cash handout – “When the kids are given their 20 dollars, it’s their choice whether they participate. At the end, they have to bring back the 20 dollars, at least.”

Beeley shared that her favorite part of the program was watching the students grow and change through the process. She stated, “There is this amazing end when they come back with their paper, and share what they’ve done. It’s inspiring to see what they can accomplish … We often tell our junior high kids that the world looks at them as lazy and self-centered. But when we give them opportunity and put trust in them, they respond and really want to help.”

In 2015, Beeley traveled with several of the Reids to see some of the village houses that had been built through their funds – simple homes with primitive spaces for cooking, and separate outhouses – a huge upgrade from what the villagers had previously owned. Beeley shared, “It was amazing. It put into perspective how much we really have [in America]. [The people in Nicaragua] have such a deep faith, and they truly believe that if they keep praying, God will answer their prayers – and for many of them, their prayers are for housing” – something besides the tin and wood shelters that they call “home.” Beeley continued, “They are very thankful and gracious. Even the people in the community who hadn’t received houses yet, were not jealous, but very kind.”

In reflection, Beeley stated, “We often take for granted how easy our lives are, even though in our own minds, they seem pretty difficult. This program [of working with FFP] gives [us] the opportunity to understand that there are people in the world that truly do have struggles and then gives [us] the drive to want to do something about that.”

With inspiring successes in their past, and hopes to have more in the future, the Reids are committed to continuing their financial backing of the program. Their plan is to run the JOY Program every other year so that the 7th and 8th grade students at RCHS have a chance to participate once.

After running the program, Beeley and the Reids questioned, “Do we really talk about what we did?” They were hesitant, because they didn’t do it for public praise. Beeley concluded, “Part of our goal in sharing our story is for people to understand how little acts can create big rewards.”

In conclusion, a RCHS student shared, “The JOY challenge was an incredible experience unlike any other. Helping others is really fun and rewarding. I learned so many lessons, like the fact that doing fun things (like baking and crafting) can help others. When you work with a group, something like raking a few yards or babysitting can make a difference for the poor. Together, [our] two grades made it possible for multiple families to have homes – families who have been praying every night for their whole lives for a house and WE gave it to them! I think that’s really awesome! I hope that I will someday be able to go see where the houses where built and help more people get homes of their own.”

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