Jacklyn Drozd said $2,200 worth of gift cards and cash donations were collected.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Reid Middle School student Maya Duhamel had an early basketball game and hadn't had a chance to get dinner.
On her way to the game, she stopped at Dunkin' Donuts intent to buy hash browns.
But at the last minute, she changed her mind.
"Instead of buying hash browns, I bought four gift cards with it," Duhamel said.
Those gift cards have since been donated to Berkshire Children and Families to give out to teens in the city who may not be able to go to Dunkin' Donuts whenever they please.
The student council had organized what they called "Teens on the Go." They partnered with Ayelada Yogurt to collect as many $5 or $10 gift cards as possible to give to others this holiday season.
"For Christmas, I am so grateful for every little thing I get and I just wanted other kids to be grateful and thankful, too," Duhamel said.
Student Anthony Telladira had taken a lead role on the project. He challenged his classmates to make small sacrifices for the betterment of others. He could have eaten at McDonald's one day but instead went in to buy gift cards instead.
"I'm lucky because I have the opportunity to get McDonald's if I want some. Other kids aren't as lucky so it gives you a good feeling when you can give up a trip you would take yourself to someone else who doesn't have that opportunity every day," Telladira said.
He did the same with a trip to Ayelada. He said his classmates had sacrificed trips to the movies or other restaurants.
Student Jacklyn Drozd, who also took on a lead role, said business like Ayelada and Molari joined in the effort. Other in the community donated cash. In total, some $2,200 worth of gift cards were donated to BCF on Tuesday.
"Local businesses and friends were happy to donate and student council members reached into their pockets and hearts to sacrifice," Drozd said. "It is a great feeling to know that we are making a difference."
While Drozd thanked Ayelada owners Lisa and Jim Cervone for their support in matching the student donations, the Cervones said they consider it an honor that the students would have them be part of it.
"I think it is really amazing that you have such a sense of community at your age," Jim Cervone told the students.
Erin Sullivan from Berkshire Children and Families said there are dozens of toy drives around this time of year to help the younger children in the city. But teens are often left out. When Reid offered to help with a project this year, the idea came of teens helping other teens by giving gift cards to places they all enjoy.
"What you do really matters. We will be giving them out starting tomorrow morning. They will be going out all over Pittsfield," Sullivan said.
Ayelada has partnered with the Reid student council for three years on a holiday project. Last year, they collected more than 200 blankets and stuffed animals to donate to Berkshire Children and Families.
Reid Principal Linda Whitacre is in awe of the students and the project.
"I'm always surprised by the projects they take on. It takes their time, dedication, commitment, and follow through. They do all of that and are giving up themselves to give to others," Whitacre said.
She said this particular project helps the students learn "21st-century skills" on being able to talk with others, address needs, and get involved in the community.
"They are learning how their education ties into what they are doing in their own lives and the lives of others," Whitacre said.
And what the students did reflect well on the Reid Middle School community, she said.
"We are all a community and our job is to increase awareness of different issues in our schoolwide community and the community at large and actively look to advocate for others," Whitacre said.
For Telladira, it was worth it.
"It is a good gift for the holidays. It is important to give back to kids who aren't as fortunate as you. It gives you a really good feeling when you do," Telladira said. "I feel good because I know we are helping other kids."
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Student speaker Brittany Sullivan shared her story of how she turned her life around. More photos from there ceremony can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When Brittany Sullivan lost her sister, her life spiraled out of control.
"When I was 14 years old, my sister died suddenly in a car accident. This sent me into a downward spiral that led me to drinking, smoking, and dipping into opioids, which eventually got me kicked out of my home at 17. Shortly after, I dropped out of high school," Sullivan said.
At the time Sullivan was already struggling with depression. She felt that she was "stupid and inadequate." That feeling had set in because she didn't start school until the age of 9 and when she did, she was far behind the other students. She was held back a grade and was constantly being pulled out of class to receive extra help.
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