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Students’ Halloween serves the needy

Amire Brazelt9 expresses his excitement while collecting canned goods during Beveridge Elementary School alternative trick or treating. | Anthony KaDarrell

Amire Brazelton, 9, expresses his excitement while collecting canned goods during Beveridge Elementary School alternative to trick or treating. | Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2014 2:27AM



Students from Beveridge Elementary School in Gary paraded in the rain collecting canned goods instead of Halloween candy, aiming to stock the shelves of the Northwest Indiana Food Bank.

State Rep. Vernon Smith, also assistant principal and consultant at Beveridge and who volunteers two or three days weekly for $1, organized the community service activity.

“We need to teach our children civic responsibility,” Smith said. “You may be in a state of poverty, but there is always someone worse off than you.”

More than 85 smiling students, knocking on neighboring doors, asked for non-perishable food rather than traditional Halloween treats.

School buses transported students block after block, from 11th to 19th and Grant to Cleveland, where they stormed the streets, some wearing Halloween costumes.

“I like collecting canned goods better than candy,” said 8-year-old China Gates. “This gives us a chance to help people.”

According to Cheryl Ramsey, who is the new principal of Beveridge, schools must reach out to the community in order to be academically successful.

“We have to improve our image,” she said. “And events like this build pride.”

Despite the past academic failures the school experienced, Ramsey says she has a plan to turn the school around.

“We’re changing the climate to make it conducive to learning,” she explained. “We’re also providing better support to our staff and meeting the needs of our children.”

“This was a great experience for the staff and students,” said school social worker Mary Ship. “It’s awesome.”

During the Halloween canvass for canned goods, a few raindrops didn’t stop students from collecting over 500 articles.

According to Smith, supporters also donated cash in the amount of $40.

A sense of excitement echoed throughout the cafeteria where students assembled to drop off donations.

“This enabled us, as teachers, to build a relationship with the community,” said third-grade teacher Victoria Hannah. “This was our school’s first community service activity ever.”

Community service is part of their improvement plan.

Smith says his next goal is to seek supporters to raise $1,500 to purchase a Scholastic program called Nextpert.

The program aims to help students meet state standards. It includes remediation, tutorials and diagnostics for teachers.

The Halloween event is expected to help Ramsey strengthen the academic achievement within the struggling school and rebuild their image.

Meanwhile, the kids walked away with their heads held high after helping others in need.



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