Longsjo Middle School Students Collect Donations for Homeless Shelters
By Chad Garner
Special to the Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG -- Longsjo Middle School fifth-graders in social studies teacher Ashley Erskine’s class have made it their mission to help others in need.
These students with gigantic hearts have spearheaded an initiative that started earlier this month to collect articles of clothing and then donate them to homeless shelters in the state.
“I was blown away at the capabilities of these students,” said Erskine, who said an initial fundraiser was started to raise money for a class field trip, but when that fell through the kids elected to help the homeless instead of themselves. “They are 10 and 11 years old, and to be a part of this with them, it’s incredible. I’m just guiding them along the way.
“It makes me so proud.”
The children are also very happy to be helping others in need.
“I think it’s very important because some homeless people don’t have clothes, so now they get to have clothes,” fifth-grader Moises Ochoa said while folding donated clothes and putting them into bags last week at school.
Added fifth-grader Adeline Van Hazinga: “This is really nice, and I think it’s important because now we are getting other kids to think about people besides themselves and think about people who might not be as fortunate as them. I feel very lucky to be a part of this project.”
Me’Yah Newton talked about the special feeling she gets by lending a helping hand.
“It’s nice because it’s not like we’re helping ourselves, we’re helping other people, so it makes me feel good on the inside,” said the fifth-grader. “It’s going to make other people feel happy about themselves because then they’ll have clothes that they can wear. They’ll have shoes, socks and blankets and stuff, so I think it’s good that we’re doing this for people who need it.”
Helping others is the greatest gift of all, says fifth-grader Venetia Boss.
“It really feels good that people are trying to help others, especially when the world is being a bad place with lockdowns, etc.,” she said. “It really means a lot. If there was a scale on how I feel to a 100, it would be 100.”
The collections for the homeless also took off in every class in Longsjo.
“It’s really good because we live in a whole community, and homeless people should not be homeless,” said student Thiago Molinari. “They should have a fortunate home like us.”
The students also came up with a friendly contest between each class. The classroom that collected the most articles of clothing would be dismissed first at the end of the school day for an entire week.
Michelle OLeary’s eighth-grade class won with more than 700 pieces of clothing collected. Erskine’s class totaled 400. The school collected a whopping 1,500 pieces of clothing. Now, they will be donated to shelters around the state.
Newton said she’s had friends at school donate to this project.
“To me, it makes me feel like it’s not just the people in the class who are helping, it’s other people in the whole world who feel the same way that we do,” she said. “It makes me feel happy.”
Erskine says she hopes her students grow as people from this project.
“I hope this experience shows them and opens their eyes to what struggles people really go through in the world,” she said. “A lot of our kids are fortunate, but a lot of our kids go through their own struggles. Opening their eyes and having experiences in the real world is more important to me. Just seeing what other people go through, having empathy and growing that empathy piece is huge for me.”
The students have big hearts at Longsjo.
Chad Garner is the public school district’s communications coordinator.