Northborough students inspired to make a difference
By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Northborough – For two fifth-grade students at the Marguerite E. Peaslee Elementary School, a unit on social justice became the catalyst for action.
It all began with school Librarian Nancy Kellner, and the book “Razia’s Ray of Hope: One Girl’s Dream of an Education” by Elizabeth Suneby. The book, part of the Citizen Kid series, published by Kids Can Press, tells the story of the Zabuli Education Center in a small village in Afghanistan and one girl’s dream of attending.
Kellner read the book to all the fourth- and fifth-grade students. Then they did a research activity which was followed up by a visit from the author.
According to Suneby, the book was written to help students understand how different life is for kids 6,500 miles away. She hoped to inspire them to advocate for others and to believe that they can make a difference.
For fifth-graders Kerry Donovan and Emma Clark – and Emma’s younger brother, Tighe – the story was a call to action.
Wanting to raise money to help the Zabuli Education Center, Kerry pitched the idea of a penny drive to Kellner and Principal Jill Barnhardt. They were thrilled. She then spoke to all of the students during lunch to explain the fundraiser.
“I wanted to raise money for Razia’s Ray of Hope because I know that women haven’t always received the rights they deserve,” said Kerry. “I wanted to do something about it. By sending girls to school, they could get an education and, who knows, they might become doctors or help to make a difference in some way.”
Emma and Tighe planned and ran a car wash, bake sale, and lemonade stand.
“After hearing Mrs. Kellner read the story, I thought I could send a girl in Afghanistan to school, then she might change the world. It feels good to know I am able to do something to make a difference in someone’s life,” said Emma.
Second-grader Tighe echoed his sister’s sentiments.
“I don’t like the idea of girls not being allowed to go to school. If I can send one girl to school maybe more will be able to go and then maybe every girl will be able to go to school. That makes me feel good,” he said.
The students raised $900, enough money to fund three girls, each for an entire year at the Zabuli Education Center.
Although the book is fictional, the school itself is real and the fundraisers will support the Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation, founded by Razia Jan and Patti Quigley to support the building and ongoing support of this school for girls.
“The teachers, principal, and I had hoped to follow the author’s visit with a discussion about fundraising, but we never had to, because these two wonderful girls took it upon themselves to initiate the process,” said Kellner. “I am honored, impressed, and moved beyond words. These girls are truly making a difference in the world!”
Suneby is moved as well, knowing that her book is making a difference in students’ lives.
“Learning that students felt compelled to reach out and help other kids makes me happy and is incredibly motivating for me to continue to reach out to more students. I applaud them. They are making the world a better place and showing other kids that every one of us can make a difference,” Suneby said.
“I am very proud of the kids. For them to know at such a young age that they can have an impact on the world is amazing,” said Melissa Clark, mother of Emma and Tighe. “Someone’s future will be better and brighter because they decided they were capable of helping. Fundraising for Razia’s Ray of Hope Foundation has taught the kids much about life beyond Northborough, I can’t wait to see what they will be inspired to do next.”
For more information on Razia’s Ray of Hope, visit raziasrayofhope.org.
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