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Students Contribute to Christmas Cheer Food Drive

Students in northeast Louisiana learn the importance of helping others.
Monroe -- While dropping off canned goods to the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana, students are learning what it means to help others.

Students from 43 schools across 12 parishes in northeast Louisiana participated in 2013's Christmas Cheer Food Drive. Schools have been collecting since the end of October.

And most of the schools' donations were delivered to the Northeast Louisiana Food Bank earlier this week. But a few still trickled in Thursday afternoon.

West Ouachita High School Student Buck Owens dropped off remaining cans. He said his school has not had a structured food drive in a couple of years.

"This year we've really revamped it," said Buck Owens. "And have way more participation from our students and faculty."

The school's student council and National Honor Society partnered together and participated in the food drive as a November service project.

"This looked like a great opportunity to give back to the community," said Owens. "And something that would really be beneficial to everyone."

Students toured the facility and learned how important the need is in northeast Louisiana. Grace Episcopal student Harrison Rhymes became inspired during a third grade visit to the food bank.

"I really never knew how many people relied on the food bank until I came here about two years ago and took the tour," said Harrison Rhymes.

His passion drove him to lead a school-wide, student run service project.

"[He] came back to our school, approached administration, and said, we need to do something," mentioned Beth Ricks, Head of School. "This is a cause that we need to be involved in."

With little to no adult intervention, Rhymes's student-led and student-driven donation project garnered 99% participation from Grace Episcopal students. They hold each other accountable for bringing 10 and 20 cans each.

"It transformed the hearts of our children in terms of what service means," said Ricks.

Rhymes's project offered incentives to students like free dress day passes or ice cream.

"He has created this culture of service. It's something that the kids look forward to every year," said Ricks. "We're so lucky to have food on our table. And these people don't. So, we need to help them."

Helping those in need and building a foundation for future generations also.

"That's really what school is all about," reminded Ricks. "That's a life-long skill. In the big picture, it's going to sustain them much more than learning their multiplication facts."

This year's goal is to collect 100,000 pounds of food to feed families in need over the holiday season. Local students told me they hope this year and the years to come will bring successful food drives now that they understand the need.
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