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North Branford High School Big Give is Underway!

Student Council members at North Branford High School are in the midst of fundraising for charities as part of the Big Give, inspired by Oprah Winfrey.

North Branford High School Big Give is Underway! North Branford High School Big Give is Underway!

In 2010, members of ’s Student Council, led by English teacher and advisor Stephanie Byrd, participated in their first “,” which resulted in raising more than $10,000 for various charities. On Dec. 20, the Student Council kicked off its second “Big Give” project with teams in the midst of fundraising.

“The idea came to me back in 2008,” said Byrd. “I was a huge Oprah Winfrey fan and was watching one day when I saw she was about to kick off her Big Give show. She handed each audience member a small amount of money and challenged them to make it grow for others. A while later, she had the audience back and I was amazed at their efforts and how much money they raised to help others. I sat there thinking, why not? Why can't we do this?”

Modeled after  Oprah Winfrey’s 2008 initiative, Byrd pitched the idea to Student Council officers in 2010 and they were on board. She withdrew $1 from the council’s account, compiled the paperwork and challenged the students to make it grow.

That year, the Student Council turned $58 into $10,000 for 20 local, national and global charities and was even awarded a Challenge to Educational Citizenship Award from the State Student Advisory Council on Education and Connecticut’s Commissioner of Education.   

“I never could have imagined that we would raise as much money as we did,” said Byrd. “I remember sitting with the students and setting a goal of $5,000. I thought that was a stretch but didn't want to discourage the kids. Each week they continued to work hard and raise money–we just watched our number soar. It was amazing!”

While Byrd was certainly impressed with the amount of money raised, she has been most impressed with her students' efforts and enthusiasm. 

“I knew they would leave NBHS and continue to give big throughout their lives,” said Byrd. “On the night of the reception, I had a group of students in tears at the end of the night begging me to do it again–for me, that was my prize.”

Some of those students have gotten their wish as the 2012 Big Give is underway. The kickoff meeting was held on Dec. 20 and the group meets every Monday to discuss progress and make suggestions. Byrd monitors fundraising ideas, tries to attend each fundraising event, communicates with parents and hosts a reception, which will be March 1.

“Parents and families are invited to honor the students' efforts and to unveil our total amount raised,” she said. “We call it a Big Give challenge because the students are supposed to work to raise the most money–they get super competitive and try to keep their fundraising ideas a secret.”

In addition to raising funds for charities, the students have one other goal in mind–to contact Oprah to tell her about their Big Give project.

Each team will be profiled on North Branford Patch over the next few weeks, beginning with the seniors. For more information, a list of charities or to make a donation to Student Council’s BIG GIVE, please contact Stephanie Byrd at sbyrd@northbranfordschools.org or by calling 203-484-1465.

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