BROOKSVILLE — Patrick O'Grady's Engaged Citizenship Through Service Learning class has Nature Coast Technical High School students looking out for members of their community.
The service elective for sophomores, juniors and seniors prepares teens to embrace altruism.
"I took the class because I wanted to help people who needed it," said junior Ashlee Johnson, 16.
Senior Joseph Montagnino, 17, who has done mission work for Northcliffe Baptist from Lakeland to Guatemala, jumped at the opportunity to be in the class.
"When I heard about it, I joined in at an instant," he said.
Said sophomore Ariana Carrillo, 15: "I joined this class because I love doing community service. It makes me feel good inside."
The class has two primary goals: researching national charities and building and implementing a fundraising event.
"Some of the organizations we've learned about are AmeriCorps and Feeding America," said junior Vivian O'Grady, 16.
Students met an AmeriCorps representative, who invited them to tutor at a new after-school program. Ten students agreed.
To explore other national charities, O'Grady put the names of several organizations into a coffee can and had each student select one. Students were expected to produce fact sheets on the organizations and do presentations of their websites for the rest of the class.
Junior Jenna Carlson, 16, picked Random Acts of Kindness. "They give examples of kindness that people can do and then to pass it on," she said.
Junior Lauren Miler, 17, picked Kaboom, an organization that helps provide play areas for kids.
Joseph Montagnino has been investigating Sharing Our Strengths (No Kid Hungry), which works to fight children's hunger. Junior Taylor Bartenope, 16, has been looking into Project Night, Night. This group provides bedtime packages, books and stuffed animals to orphans and homeless children.
"They believe when (kids) go to bed, they should have the comfort of those items," Taylor said.
The class is doing a community project called the Santa Cause. The culmination of this fundraising effort will be a Dec. 17 event at New Journey Church, said sophomore Nadine Baretela, 15. The aim is to give children "a safe time with gifts and food," she said.
Kids will be able to sit on Santa's lap and receive gifts from him.
"We're giving them something to make them happy," Nadine said, "just being happy children."
They chose the church as the venue because O'Grady's after-school club, Children's Crusade, to which some class members belong, had a yard sale there last year. And a Nature Coast Technical High School teacher, Greg Champagne, is the pastor there.
The class is divided into three sections to help coordinate the project. The activities group organizes the fundraising and finds places for events. They collect donations from around the school.
The video Web group creates announcements for the school's TV station. They are charged with the website, too: thesantacause.moonfruit.com.
The third group handles print advertising, producing fliers, posters and signs.
The class has collected $320 from an Oct. 8 yard sale and plans a lollipop drive, too, in hopes of raising $200 by selling them at school for 50 cents each.
The class also plans to set up a station at school during lunch asking students to give 99 cents, said Ashlee Johnson.
The ultimate goal is $2,000 so students can get presents that underprivileged children probably would not get otherwise.
And to give them a great party.
Donations are welcome. Visit the website for contact information.