Oakes students help community, change perceptions
CASTLE ROCK -- In a neighborhood just off Plum Creek Parkway, a Toyota RAV4 is slowly making its way through cul-de-sacs and intersections. Occasionally, the car pulls off to the side of the street, where three Daniel C. Oakes High School seniors pick up bags of groceries that have been set on front porches.
“I hope these are for us,” says Madi Levinskas-Hodgson, laughing as she checks King Soopers bags filled with non-perishable goods. When she finds the donation paper marked for her school, she scoops up the food and heads back to her ride.
Madi and two of her classmates from Daniel C. Oakes High School Student Council are gathering the food set out by community members for their annual food drive. Over the course of the week, they’ll continue to visit more homes and collect food for people in need.
“We’re really thankful for all the donations we get,” says Daniel C. Oakes High School Principal Derek Fleshman. “We can’t do this without our community helping us.”
The Daniel C. Oakes Student Council students hope to collect 2,500 pounds of food by the end of the week. All of the food will be donated to the Douglas/Elbert Task Force, a non-profit human service organization dedicated to providing assistance to people in Douglas and Elbert counties who are in serious economic need, at risk of homelessness, or in a similar crisis. This is the second year the school has worked with the Task Force on this community service project.
“Douglas and Elbert County Task Force does great work, and we’re thankful for their partnership,” says Fleshman.
The food drive is an annual source of pride for Daniel C. Oakes High School. The school has been involved in food donations for more than 20 years. Fleshman hopes that the hard work his students are doing gives the local community a chance to see the greatness in his students.
“I just hope our community sees our kids out there, doing great things,” says Fleshman.
The issue of helping those in need in close to many Daniel C. Oakes students’ hearts.
“I don’t know what it is about giving to others, but it really brings people together,” says Alaina Newhouse, another Daniel C. Oakes High School senior. “A lot of our students know what it’s like to go home and not know if there will be food in the fridge or a bed to sleep in, so giving back to others that have gone through the same thing, that’s pretty amazing.”
Daniel C. Oakes High School is an alternative education campus located in Castle Rock that provides an educational setting in which students who are at risk of not completing high school can earn their high school diploma. That can occasionally carry an undeserved stigma for the students.
“It’s a huge deal for us. Our kids are perceived wrongly by others in the community at times,” says social studies and student council teacher Brian Woods. “This gives the kids the opportunity to do some good out in their communities and change that perception. These are good kids, and they’re doing great things.”
“I think when people first see the fliers and see our school on them, they’re probably hesitant because the students probably don’t have the best reputation,” says Madi. “But when they see what we’re trying to do, hopefully, that’s changing their perspective on us a little bit.”
“We’re human beings, we’ve made mistakes just like everyone else,” says Newhouse. “It’s good to show people that we’re not those mistakes, that we’re human beings.”
And according to Woods, showing empathy during one of the hardest times of the year for some families is bound to change some minds.
“We’re just trying to feed hungry people, and give our students the opportunity to be of service to the community,” says Wood. “That’s really the core of what we’re trying to do.”