This year, students in the Entrepreneurship and Business Academy (EBA) at Kempsville High School found a creative way to give back to the community.
Six EBA students collectively volunteered more than 100 hours during the past three months at St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children. They spent the time working hand in hand with some of the home’s residents in order to create an art piece to auction off at the organization’s annual fundraiser, a gala and auction held Saturday, April 14.
“We found out about their annual gala they use to raise funds and decided we all wanted to be a part of it,” said Noelle Eversten, parent of one of the student volunteers. “We decided painting would be the best way to match all the different needs of the children we were going to work with.”
Beginning in February, Cailyn Banks, Sydney Eversten, La’Mari Ferebee, Sarah Justesen, Ronan Livingston and Robert Smith, began visiting St. Mary’s Home to work with its residents on the collaborative artwork.
“I loved talking to them, helping them paint,” Smith said. “They were having such a great time. I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The coastal theme for the gala this year was the motivation behind choosing the subject of their artwork.
“We chose to paint a mermaid,” said Banks. “We thought it would be really fun for us and the children at St. Mary’s.”
Tracey Pryor, a parent who helped supervise the student work, is proud of the dedication she saw from the students involved.
“My son has Asperger’s, so this project is near and dear to my heart. It was amazing to see how much our kids enjoyed working with the children, and didn’t treat them differently – just like any other peer.”
Students enjoyed it as well.
“Working with the kids at St. Mary’s, I went in thinking that it was going to be a different kind of experience, but I was wrong,” said Sydney Eversten. “It couldn’t have been more natural, and a really fun time.”
Noelle Eversten was proud to see her daughter and the other children in the group volunteer for the right reasons.
“That’s the way it should be. They got in there, got their hands dirty, and everybody had an amazing time. I had to hunt them down to sign their volunteer forms!”
“The joy radiated in the room,” said Pryor. “A lot of those kids are nonverbal, but you can see on their faces the joy they were having.”
“Every single one of them had a part of it,” Smith said. “It was really nice to be around them. Everyone should do this in their life and have this experience.”
Everyone agreed that they would like to see this continue next year.
“It was a great partnership and a really great project,” said Pryor.
It was a great success as well – the group’s mermaid artwork brought in $300 for St. Mary’s Home.