After the recent diagnosis of a school faculty member with breast cancer, the staff and students at Cranston High School West have rallied together during Breast Cancer Awareness Month to raise awareness and funds toward the cause, and to show support for one of their own.
On Friday, students hosted the first of two Pink Out dress down days at the school, where students could give a donation and dress in pink for the day. It did not end there, however.
"The students came to me with an idea, stemming from something they'd seen on YouTube, a breast cancer awareness video, and asked if we could do something similar," said Jay Jones, English and Media teacher at West.
Alyssa Males explains how it happened.
"We were in Ms. [Holly] Meyer's anatomy class and she showed us this video on YouTube from the Lexington Medical Center of their Pink Glove Dance, and we thought that we should do that in our school," said Males.
On Friday, as the students went through their daily routines around the school, dressed in pink, Jones and his media students were on foot, following behind with video and digital cameras, ready to catch some excitement on film, such as the students and faculty dancing and singing during lunchtime to the Katy Perry song, "Firework."
"This is the impetus for getting our school spirit up and emulating the spirit we saw in the Lexington Medical Center video. We want to show courage and provide awareness to this cause," said Jones. "It's an honor to be able to provide encouragement for people and families who are fighting this disease. It's a good way to inspire people."
Principal Tom Barbieri explained that not only was this a student-led idea, but that the students also pulled it together in just a couple of days' time.
"This was all done in two days and it's just exploded with the kids, the administration team and the teachers from all different departments working together," he said.
The students in David Bizier's entrepreneurship classes jumped on board for Friday's Pink Out as well, setting up a table outside the school cafeteria where they sold pink ribbons to the students, donating 100 percent of the proceeds toward breast cancer research.
"The kids did the whole thing. They did a great job of putting it all together," said Bizier. "In about 24 hours, Natalie Conley and her team put together 200 ribbons and they deserve all of the credit.”
Conley and her team of fellow students also had a large poster on the wall near their table, an outline of the breast cancer ribbon, and allowed the students to place pink post-it notes with messages of encouragement and thoughts for those fighting the disease, including their own teacher, letting her know they were thinking of her and pulling for her. Messages of "Stay strong" and "Keep Fighting" filled the ribbon as the day went on.
Barbieri believes that it's spirit like this that pulls a school together.
"They're already excited for whatever will be the next event. This is what happens when you let them run with their ideas, and if they do a great job, they can do the next thing. They feed off of each other, and they do great things to give back to our community," said Barbieri, noting that the school raised $4,000 in September alone for various community causes, including local fire victims and Adoption Rhode Island.
"This is what it's supposed to be all about, getting kids excited about their community and being involved in school," he said. "This is a perfect example of what happens with the kids when they get a great idea."