Haliburton Spills their Secrets to Success

We can’t help but be awe struck with how much the students at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School are able to accomplish. This year, during the week of May 11th, the Interact Club rallied their school and community to raise over $5000.  A private donor of Education is Power agreed to match their donation of 3:1 boosting the grand total to a whopping $20 000.  Not only did they help students in East Africa by giving them the opportunity to go to school, they also inadvertently raised community and school spirit through inspiring others with their passion for helping others. Last year, these students raised an incredibly impressive $3000 and it makes you wonder if there is something special in the water of those pristine Haliburton Lakes. However, upon closer examination, it seems to be more than just something in the water.

Below teacher, Jennifer Paton who runs the Interact Club at Haliburton Highlands Secondary shares some of her secrets about just what makes the interact club so successful at what they do year in and year out.  She details the specific activities students set up, the time commitment involved and the benefits for the school, the teachers and the students.


Above: EIP Mural displayed in the hallways of Haliburton Highlands Secondary School

Jennifer Paton, Teacher and Leader of the Interact Clubs Walks us Through How to Successfully Engage a School and Community in Global Fundraising

We are a small high school (less than 500 students) in a relatively poor and small community if these activities have worked for us, they’ll probably be even more successful for you! The Interact Club at HHSS has over 30 members when school starts in September, and about 10 committed members still active by the end of spring. We are a service club connected with Rotary International and also Free the Children’s We Schools program, and every year the students decide what activities to try and which charities to direct the funds toward. We have been fundraising for Education is Power for two years. With EIP, the students feel that the charity is small enough and lean enough that they can see the impact of every dollar they send. For instance, the students had a skype call with two EIP students last spring, and have never had such direct contact with recipients of other charitable donations to other larger organizations.

The Activities We Do

Our largest amount of money is raised through a week of “global” fundraising every May, a reasonably quiet time of year for school activities, but not too soon after March Break for planning purposes. The week always begins with assemblies, in which we target students’ hearts and minds to raise awareness of the importance of the cause we have chosen, and to explain how much fun we will have in all the activities. It’s important that there are activities that are low-cost or free, such as watching teachers get “pied” outside at lunch and hoping that the ticket you bought for 25 cents will be the one selected to deliver the pie. Here are a few of the popular activities we have had success with during these global fundraising weeks.

  • “Rotary Radio Day”: We partner with the two local Rotary Clubs in Haliburton and Minden and also the community radio station Canoe FM 100.9 for “Rotary Radio Day.” The high school students sell, write and record the ads, they participate as live on air hosts, they pre-record interviews with students and high school staff, and generally work with the radio station and the Rotarians to create an interesting and engaging day of programming. This year’s theme was the power of education, and all proceeds were dedicated to Education is Power. Besides the advertising, ($25 per spot) listeners were encouraged to call in with donations. Of all our activities, this one raises the most money from the adults in the community, not just students and staff.
  • Bake Sales
  • Pie-ing a Teacher Event: Each teacher willing to be pied has a jar with their name and picture on it. At lunch during that week we sell tickets for 25 cents each. The student writes their own name on the ticket and puts it in the jar of the teacher they hope to pie. On the actual day, everyone gathers outside where the pie-ing is set up. We draw a name from a jar, and that student gets to fill a pie plate with pudding and whipped cream and mush it into the teacher’s face. Large crowds gather to see the fun, especially all the students who have bought tickets and hope to get picked. Usually we pie 3 to 5 teachers at lunch on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the week.
  • Class Buy out:  For $5, students can miss a period of class to participate in the activities, which were Africa-themed for the past two years. A local farmer brought a goat to meet the students! At least half the student body usually buys out, and often classroom teachers will buy the tickets for the last few students in the class who weren’t planning to participate.

We have many other activities that have worked well for us beyond this global fundraising week.

  • Partnering with an apple orchard to take orders for apples that would be delivered just before Thanksgiving. We easily sold about 100 bags of apples and kept 50%, or about $3 per bag.
  • We made Christmas ornaments to sell at a local gallery’s Christmas fundraiser, and the lunch hours when we assembled the ornaments were very fun.
  • Often we partner with the Student Activity Council to support a dance and sell refreshments. They think they get more students coming to the dance if it’s for a good cause.
  • Another idea that students are keen to try is a fundraising dinner for community members.
  • On Fridays students can make a donation and receive a stamp to wear their hat for the day.

I think it’s important to care deeply about the cause, so take time to find one that your group feels passionate about. Then be creative and have fun. If you have five ideas, probably two will work out well, one will be ok, and two will turn out to be more work or expense than you thought so they get dropped. For instance, the students would love to have a dunk tank, but where do you find one and how do you get it transported and filled? We’ve never solved those logistical problems.

The Time Commitment Involved

Our group meets weekly all year. Starting at least a month ahead of the fundraising week, we are delegating jobs that take extra time, such as talking to teachers, preparing PowerPoints for the assembly, preparing jars, making posters and writing announcements. Some students probably put in 20+ hours, others only the weekly meetings. During the fundraising week, key students are busy every day before school and during lunch, other students volunteer for a lunch hour or two. On the kickoff day (Monday), students involved in the assembly usually miss all day of classes as we rehears during first period, present during periods 2, 3 and sometimes 4, and then clean up. And on the buyout day (Friday), students are usually setting up during period 1, all available hands running activities during period 2,then cleaning up and a few students count up all the money raised for the triumphant announcement before the end of the day. There are a few students who really love working with the radio station, and they will put in 20+ hours just preparing for that, plus spending the day at the station being on air hosts and answering phones.

Haliburton Group

EIP’s Robyn Penfold and Jennifer Paton with the Interact Club after a presentation in May 2014

For me, Interact probably takes 2 hours a week of my time on average through the year. As we are organizing the fundraising week there is definitely more. I try hard to make sure the students are in control, and I am just facilitating. They are choosing what they want to do, and I help them break down complicated responsibilities into what needs to be done this week and today, and what can be left for later.

The Benefits for the School, Teachers and Community

You can’t run these events without a good working relationship with the administration, staff and custodians. We work hard to maintain support from all those people. Administrators like good press and not too much chaos in the school. Custodians like to know students will clean up all messes. Teachers want to know the importance of their classes (tests, etc) will be respected. Oh, and we let the cafeteria know of activities that will involve food, because it affects their sales for the day and they might prepare less to avoid waste.

The students develop diverse skills from the planning and organizing of activities.  The key is to get them to take the risk to try something they haven’t done before, whether it’s make a poster, contact a reporter,  record a radio ad or speak to a group (or the whole school!).  They develop empathy and social responsibility from selecting the cause and seeing the impact of their actions. They learn that they don’t have to have money to donate to be able to make a difference.

As a teacher, I have fun seeing the students’ growth and pride in their achievements and I believe that my efforts multiply into their lifelong community actions. Our school is a more fun and caring place because of the activities we plan.  It also encourages the entire student body to be aware of and take action to help with the needs of others in our own community and around the globe.

Good luck planning your own unique initiatives at your school!

-Jennifer Paton

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