The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


December 8, 2013

T-D Leadership Seminar | How Blacklick Valley student leaders organized a successful 2013 food drive

NANTY GLO — Blacklick Valley School District students who took part in The Tribune-Democrat’s 2013 Leadership Seminar put a youthful spin on the district’s annual food drive as part of a service project they were required to plan during the summit of local student leaders.

The result was what high school guidance counselor Brian Gibson called the most successful food collection at the district to date. An AmeriCorps representative assigned to the five-student group said the kids took the project by the reins and decided to inject a little friendly competition between grade levels to make this year’s charity drive a success. The food drive ran from Nov. 12-18.

“This year, at the high school, the winning class – we gave them a scone party,” said Gibson. The elementary school winners would get to enjoy an ice cream party.

“Second grade really brought in a huge amount of food,” Gibson said. “This was the largest amount of food we’ve ever collected for the district.”

In all, Blacklick Valley students brought in 750 nonperishable food items, including boxes of stuffing, instant potatoes, pie crust, pumpkin pie mix, cans of vegetables, cans of fruit, cranberry sauce, canned yams, evaporated milk and powdered drink mix, according to Gibson. Cash donations toward Christmas turkeys totaled $215. All donations were taken to the Miners Community Food Pantry in Nanty Glo.

The second-grade class accounted for 214 of those items and $42 in cash donations. At the high school, the junior class came out on top and had a victory breakfast of scones provided by the district.

Gibson said the students’ familiarity with the district’s yearly food drive, and how it positively impacts food insecurity issues in the region, informed their choice of community service project during the seminar.

“We do lots of service projects. It was before Thanksgiving, so it was very timely,” he said. “They took ownership of the whole project. I think the most valuable thing (they gained) is that sense of community and seeing a problem and trying to do something to help.

“Being a leader, instead of sitting back and thinking someone else is going to solve their problem.”

During the seminar, AmeriCorps members were assigned to each group to help the students develop a service project plan and facilitate discussions. Brittany Buterbaugh said the Blacklick Valley kids didn’t really need her to get them going.

“They were very into making this plan and making sure that it got carried through,” she said. “They were very ambitious about it, so it was nice.

“It was a good experience to get to sit around the table and talk to the kids,” she said. “They had some really good ideas. I think it was a great experience and something that should be done in the future again.”

They brought that attitude back to school with them in the weeks leading up to the drive, according to Gibson – reminding fellow students about the drive and how to participate and organizing collectors and counters for the donations.

“They’re good-hearted kids,” he said. “I think when they see a need, they want to step in and help out.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at

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