– Rockdale News, 8/14/10
The Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology has been awarded the prestigious DifferenceMaker award by the Alliance for Student Activities for being the top community service high school in the United States.
In a service project spearheaded by the Magnet students themselves, both students and faculty competed in a food drive project that enabled the Rockdale Food Bank to remain open in a time of dire need.
The Food Bank was facing temporary closure right before the Thanksgiving holidays due to the massive demand. Students learned of the food bank’s predicament during the initial food drop-offs. The original goal was to donate around 500 cans of food. Upon learning of the food bank’s situation, the students rallied and donated around 1,600 cans of non-perishable food by the end of the month-long drive.
"I think it was the first time that Magnet as a community came together across all grade levels and families to do a meaningful, community, backyard service project," said Susan Gary, a science teacher at the Magnet School.
The project involved an innovative twist on the common "penny war" fund-raising competition, where pennies earn teams points, but higher denomination coins deduct points. Thus, the teams compete by putting more of the "negatively-scoring" coins into their rivals' collection. For the food drive, certain foods were designated with positive points and some with negative points. The negatively-pointed goods were the foods that the Rockdale Food Bank needed more. Grade-levels and faculty competed against each other to donate food to the Food Bank.
"This is really something that the kids came up with in the class," said Mary Ann Suddeth, director of the Magnet School for Science and Technology. "We started a community service class last year because we feel that this is something that’s very important and giving back is something that we preach to our students."
In April, the students who organized the food drive applied for the DifferenceMaker award, completing a rigorous application process. Months later, students and faculty were astonished to learn that they had won. The biggest surprise came from learning that the Magnet School topped other schools with larger projects, such as raising $30,000.