In the wake of the devastating wildfires in our county, Rancho Cotate High School students are collaborating amongst themselves to help out their community in this time of need. Dividing their efforts over the course of several weeks, the associated student body is organizing and managing a number of drives for goods to help victims of the fire.
“This was the idea of the student government,” says Jessica Holman, Associated Student Body Advisor. “We talked about it the first few days we were back in school and how we can help. We thought breaking up the donations into weekly drives was a good way to focus our efforts.”
The school began their five weeks of drives by doing their traditional “Penny War” drive, which entails each of the four grades filling a big water jug with change, with points earned getting counted towards spirit points. Each coin donated is a positive point and each paper money donated is a negative point. So, classes who are competitive and don’t want the other grade to win will add paper money to their jugs to give them negative points. Traditionally the school has done this fundraiser to raise money for the associated student body class – a college prep elective – but this year all of the $500 earned will be donated to fire victims.
“It’s a competition between grade levels,” says Holman. “Sometimes that’s the best way to get them to participate! It’s nice to see the generosity of the students.”
Last week students had a school supply drive and received twenty backpacks and an abundance of school supplies. Supplies will first be offered to Rancho Cotate students that were impacted by the fires (there were six), and then offered to other schools who have many displaced students. Piner High School, for example, has approximately 90 students that were displaced.
This week the student body is having a clothing and bedding drive. Bella Notte Linens, a high-end bedding company based in Novato, is donating over a thousand pieces of bedding. The company had already been involved with the school previously through donating materials to the sewing class.
“Bella Notte is delivering tens of thousands of dollars of bedding to the school next week,” says Debra Bee, the Sewing and Fashion Design teacher at Rancho Cotate. “They had already donated about $10,000 worth of fabric for our class, but this donation will go specifically to victims of the fire. They reached out as soon as the fires happened.”
Students in Bee’s fashion design club also designed silk screen T-shirts, using the “Sonoma County Strong” tagline as inspiration. The T-shirts are being sold on campus, at the homecoming game, and at play-off games and the money earned will be put in a fund to help victims of the fire – especially Rancho Cotate students affected.
Next week the school will have another drive to obtain first aid, personal hygiene, and pet supply products. The following week will entail a canned food drive.
Giving back is not something that is new to the students.
“Our canned food drive is pretty legendary,” says Holman. “We’ve given over 70,000 pounds of food in the past five years to NOAH [Neighbors Organized Against Hunger, the Cotati/Rohnert Park/Penngrove food bank]. We gave over 27,000 pounds of food in one year, and about 10 to 15 thousand pounds on average per year. We are a very generous, philanthropic, school.”
Despite the friendly competition, Senior and Student Body President Kyla Johnson is impressed by so many students coming together to support this joint cause.
“All the grades, our whole student body as a whole are really coming together as a cougar community,” says Johnson. “It’s amazing how many people have come together to support the community.”