Oak Ridge students pitch in for namesake's needy

By: Penne Usher Telegraph Correspondent
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A group of Oak Ridge High School students set out to make a change for the better in the lives of inner-city youth and they did — in a big way. The Oak Ridge Leadership class held fund-raising events for a week beginning in late November to provide food and warm clothing to the students of Oak Ridge Elementary school in Sacramento. The 500 grade school students all receive free lunch at school and often go without food on weekends. The results of the “Be Change” movement were more than they expected. “I was completely overwhelmed and stunned,” said Jason Harper, director of Be Change at the elementary school. “They exceeded their goals on every level.” When it was all said and done, the high school students raised more than $4,250, in excess of 600 canned goods and 20 large bags of clothing. “We expected about $2,000. We were really happy with the results,” said Alex Bennett, 18, a senior at Oak Ridge and member of Be Change. “The entire student body united for this cause even kids we were not really involved in school function rallied around this.” It doesn’t end with the gathering of donations. “We plan on going to Oak Ridge Elementary next week to meet some of the kids and deliver the food and clothing to their homes,” said Marcia Moya, a teacher at Oak Ridge High, and leadership adviser. The high school students will have a say in how the donated money is spent. “We feel the completion of this project is giving the (high school) students a voice as to where the money will go,” Harper said. “For instance they may say they want to make sure that academic supplies are purchased — or medical or dental issues addressed. Why not let them help determine the level of urgency? “ The high volume of food donations frees up the donated funds to be utilized in other ways. “We now have money to go to other programs, such as purchasing glasses for a child, a dentist appointment or simply providing a child in need with a pair of winter shoes,” he said. Bennett said the class as a whole will decide how the money is allocated. The hope is that the Oak to Oak fundraiser becomes an annual event. “Three of us are seniors and we are drilling it into the juniors to keep this going,” Bennett said. “We are happy for what we can do for these students.” Penne Usher can be reached at