Students ring in $100k for co-curriculars


Video Screenshot from Rachel Sentchuk

WALLSTREET: The conference room was filled with papers, coffee and ringing phones.

By Maayan Waldman, Community Editor

Sitting or standing around a conference table with cellphones pressed to their ears like brokers at a stock exchange, a dozen students called everyone they knew Jan. 28 in hopes of raising $100,000 in 24 hours for  co-curriculars.

It was the school’s first-ever phone-a-thon, the goal being to match three $25,000 contributions with a fourth drawn from people the students personally knew.

Working in the conference room on the first floor, students chosen by the administration – most, but not all, of them elected representatives on Just Community committees – were served Coffee Bean drinks, assorted snacks and sodas, and lunch from Meshuga 4 Sushi, and were excused from class to spend the afternoon on the phone.

“We’re trying to raise money for Shalhevet  extracurriculars and clubs,” said sophomore  Sam Hirschhorn early in the telethon. “Our goal is 100 thousand dollars and if we don’t get that within the next 24 hours we return all the money so I better get back to working hard.”

Jan. 28 was also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and all of the fundraisers had spent the morning learning about the black community in segregated America via literature and a documentary.

The phone-a-thon started right after the MLK program and planned to continue as late as needed into the night, but in the end they reached their $25,000 pledge shortly after school ended.

“It was an interesting transition going from the educational assembly to the fundraiser, but we didn’t mind and didn’t think too much about it,” said Alex Reich, a junior class representative in the Fairness Committee.

Cheers erupted in the conference room every time the money ticker – a TV screen connected to a computer following the phone-a-thon page on – ticked up from when another contribution was registered.

It was just six-and-a-half hours into the phone-a-thon when the ticker reached $100,000 – much earlier than the 24 hours allotted. Applause and shouts of joy erupted.

The fundraiser’s organizer, Director of Development Claire Benyowitz, said that the decision to have students make the calls rather than administration or faculty was deliberate.

“We feel that students have the best voices for the school — they are passionate about the school, they love the school,” Mrs. Benyowitz told the Boiling Point. “Nobody can sell the school more than the students.”

She said the donors were anonymous, and had agreed to donate $25,000 each provided the school could raise that much on its own.

Mrs. Benyowitz said that co-curriculars had been chosen because to receive the funds so a large portion of the school would benefit from increased funding.

“Ninety percent of the student body is involved in some sort of co-curricular,” Mrs. Benyowitz said, “so we wanted to pick something that would benefit everybody, and everybody would be a winner from this event.” Head of School Rabbi Ari Segal confirmed that money would go entirely to co-curriculars, but did not say how or when it would be distributed.

After the fundraiser, Rabbi Segal told the Boiling Point that he was pleased not just with the results but also with the ambiance of the day.

“It just went so well,” Rabbi Segal said. “It was a really positive experience for everybody.”

“The best part was that everybody was so into it. In the whole school there was a buzz throughout the whole day,” said Director of Alumni Solly Hess, who helped coordinate the event.

He also brought the students food, gave them numbers of alumni and other community members they could call, and encouraged the students to get excited about the fundraiser.