This year's Spirit of Giving Luncheon brought together members and businesses of the community for a good cause, but also offered new opportunities and experiences for the students of the Oxford Area High School (OAHS), particularly for seniors Brandy Rodriguez and Lyndsey Berry.The annual community event raises money for the Neighborhood Services Center of Oxford, a non-profit organization that provides clothing, food and household items for needy families.

Previously, the event was run solely by the McLeod family, but this year, thanks to the suggestion and efforts of Mary Fasick, of Bright Beginnings Day Care, OAHS Principal Dave Madden and the students got involved.

Numerous clubs in the high school contributed to the event, such as Helping Hands Club, who worked to serve and clean up at the luncheon, the Tri-M music honors program, who entertained guests with musical performances, and the Student Council, who worked to decorate, greet and perform various tasks.

Two members of the Student Council, Berry and Rodriguez, had a greater hand in the event and used the opportunity as their Graduation Project.

All graduating seniors must complete a Graduation Project for a pass or fail grade, according to Pennsylvania state requirements. Seniors may choose from various project types, such as community service, shadowing a career or writing an in-depth paper. Each student must have a teacher sponsor to check in with. The completed project must be documented and presented to Principal Madden before February of their graduation year.

"Mr. Madden presented the project idea to me," said Rodriguez, Student Council President. "I thought it was a great idea, because I would be doing something for a good cause... and I would be getting my graduation project out of the way."

Berry, who is friends with Rodriguez, said she heard about the project and wanted to get on board.

"I thought it was a really good idea, so I asked if I could do it with Brandy for my project," said Berry.

Together, for almost three weeks and a total of 35 hours, the two girls visited local businesses and community members to solicit donations and to sell tickets and ad space for the place-mats.

"We were mentored by Jane Freeman from the Peoples Bank of Oxford for the fundraising part, and Chris Hubley, of Bright Beginnings, went around with us everywhere and helped us solicit donations," said Berry.

"Principal Madden even went with us to some of the businesses to collect large donations," said Rodriguez.

The girls were required to keep time sheets and a log of how much they sold and had to report to Madden, who was the sponsor of their project.

"We sold a lot of tickets at the door," said Rodriguez. "It was a really good turnout. And we had a lot of fun."

Thanks to the solicitation of Rodriguez and Berry, and the efforts of the other participants, the event raised over $2,000. (The total raised has not yet been determined).

"These girls did a great job; all of the students did wonderful," said Madden. "Fundraising is a lot of work and they had to endure millions of questions and repeat the same information over and over with each business and community member; they gained a lot of experience through this project," he said.

Both seniors said they enjoyed the experience and are happy to get their graduation project over with, because it means that they are one step closer to graduation.

After high school both Berry and Rodriguez are planning to attend college. Berry will be attending Penn State Main Campus in the fall and will most likely study advertising. Rodriguez said she is still deciding between Shippensburg University and Philadelphia University and plans to study Business.

Although there will be a whole new class of seniors, Madden says that the high school will definitely be involved in the luncheon again next year. "It's too good of a thing to not be involved," he said.

Oxford Area High School is

Photo by Michelle Sensenig Seniors Lyndsey Berry, left, and Brandy Rodriguez, right, contributed to the Spirit of Giving Luncheon for their Graduation Project and were sponsored by OAHS Principal Dave Madden, middle.

located at 705 Waterway Road, East Nottingham. For more information on upcoming events and the requirements of the Graduation Projects visit www.oxford.k12.pa.us.

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