Every year Student Council hosts a canned food drive which garners very little interest. Every year former-students-turned-teachers blurt out how sad it is that the school can’t raise a small amount of cans while when they graduated they could make a monument of cans in the gym. Why does Memorial not care about helping out and donating? Why do teachers have to bribe students into donating by offering extra points on tests, or even putting in whole summative grades?
The situation isn’t so simple as just students not caring. Student Council advisor Ms. Dooly cites that over the past ten years Manchester, and thus Memorial, has seen a change in demographics; more students with an impoverished backgrounds are taking seats in our school. This means that the cans we donate to the drive may be coming right back to students in the school. One teacher told me how she has had students in the past get cans from New Horizons only to donate them to a class to gain those extra ten points, or gain that extra summative. When teachers create incentives to donate— or even worse class incentives— it puts pressure on these low-income students to “join the fun” and donate something they don’t have.
This needs to stop. The individual classroom incentive creates too many groups to compete amongst, and the students actively have to make a choice on which class they should donate to. A way to solve this issue is to reduce the number of competing teams, which can be done by having the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes compete amongst each other for donations. This form of competition removes the pressure off of low income students to donate because it is happening on a large scale instead of right in their classroom. Imagine a class where the teacher says she will throw a party if each student brings in two cans. How can a student who doesn’t know if they’ll eat that night donate? Some students may feel embarrassed about their socioeconomic condition and may not be willing to share their situation with the teacher. This would lead to social ostracization and make life even harder for a student facing so much in their life. By using the class method, students may feel motivated to support their class due to companionship, and pure competition. We could even set up four boxes in the middle of the cafeteria to give an image of this competition to students and have them see their progress.
In the end, we may not have towers of cans in the Bronstein Gymnasium, but we’ll have pride in our student body while removing the stresses of class-by-class donations to low income students.