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Lighting up the night for seniors

Fundraiser unites community, supports Lynbrook class of 2021

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The streets of Lynbrook glowed with candlelight and pride on March 11, as residents placed luminaria bags on their front porches to show their support for the Lynbrook High School class of 2021.

The bags were sold through the Light the Sky fundraiser, organized by all of the district student councils, from elementary to high school.

Shari Bowes, the Waverly Park Student Council adviser for the past 16 years, came up with the idea for the fundraiser, having recognized a need to bolster the PTA Council’s senior scholarship fund. The council typically raises scholarship money through the Homecoming football game, which was initially canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but was recently rescheduled for April 10. The fundraiser is the first collaboration among all of the Lynbrook student councils.

“I noticed that the community was in need of a unifying force,” Bowes said. “We also needed a way to support our seniors. It wouldn’t be fair for them to receive a smaller scholarship fund than previous classes.”

Her first step was to contact LHS Student Government Association adviser Mary Kirby, who jumped on board. The two advisers have a long history in Lynbrook and a strong relationship that dates back to Bowes’s childhood: Kirby was Bowes’s babysitter, and then her English teacher. Bowes later taught Kirby’s children at Waverly Park, and now they work together in the district.

Once agreeing to pursue the idea, Bowes and Kirby pitched a plan to their student council members and ordered supplies: plastic candles, paper bags and personalized stickers. Members from every school’s student council played a part in organizing the event, but Waverly Park, Marion Street and Lynbrook High School led the initiative. They helped to garner student and community pre-orders, and later, pack and distribute luminary bags. Finally, they chose a date for the bag lighting: March 11, because of its resemblance to two candlesticks. As students worked to organize Light the Sky, many unlikely friendships formed between high-schoolers and those as young as 10, which Kirby and Bowes agreed was surprising and incredible.

“This event just created such a beautiful sense of community, of belonging, and something for everyone to look forward to,” Kirby said.

Additionally, all three schools worked to promote the event through fliers and digital advertisements. Waverly Park Student Council President Riley Shogan starred in a commercial for the event for social media.

“It’s so exciting to bring everyone together in a time like this,” Shogan said.

Senior members of the LHS concert choir also produced a promotional video, which featured them singing along to the 2013 hit song “Burn” by Ellie Goulding. It was the second promo video that the choir made this year, the first being for the SGA’s virtual Human Relations Day event. It was shared via Instagram, on both the SGA’s (lynbrooksga) and the choir’s (lynbrookhighschoolchorus) accounts.

Chorus teacher Barry Wyner directed both productions. “I love supporting the SGA because I so deeply believe in the good work they do,” he said. “I also have strong affection for this senior class, which has an uncanny amount of amazing chorus students that have contributed so much to our program; they are truly a group worthy of honoring.”

Customers could buy one bag for $5 or three bags for $10. Bags were distributed in the Kindergarten Center parking lot the week of March 7. According to Kirby, the SGA was overwhelmed by the community’s positive response, with students, teachers, community members and business owners flocking to order them and show support.

“That’s what makes this school district so unbelievable,” Bowes said. “You reach out to one person, and suddenly, the schools raised close to $4,000, which will go directly to the PTA Council’s senior scholarship fund and will be awarded to deserving seniors before they graduate.”

LHS student Vice President Maeve Mooney called the event a success. “We raised so much money for the senior class, and it was incredible driving around seeing all the lights,” Mooney said. “As a senior, it means the world to me that the community came together to support us.”

The LHS SGA Instagram account has also been active throughout the school year, despite the cancellation of many school events. The account’s goal is to model responsible behavior and create a fun, collaborative environment for students to share school news.

The Waverly Park Student Council has also maintained its philanthropic streak this year, running events such as a Thanksgiving food drive, a Super Bowl canned-food collection and the making of “kindness grams” for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Other districts have taken notice of the event’s success and contacted Lynbrook students to find out how they, too, can host a similar event.

“We do what we can to bring the community together,” Kirby said. “That’s the Lynbrook way.”