Class project makes a difference for Niles food pantry - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Class project makes a difference for Niles food pantry

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NILES, Ohio -

It started out as a simple group project in class and turned into a way to make a difference in Niles. Four seniors, earning an A while giving back.

The Dragon Pantry at Niles Middle School opened this past fall and it's still well-stocked thanks to a group of McKinley High School seniors and a class project through YSU and College Credit Plus, with a goal of giving back.

"They want the students to take a look at solving an issue in their community or giving back to their community in some way," said Chad Ries, who teaches the Communications Foundations class.

Groups had two choices: do a research project or put a plan into action. For this group the choice was clear.

"We kind of wanted to get out into the community and make something that would change other people throughout our project, not just research a whole bunch of statistics and put it down on a piece of paper," said senior Michael Cline.

"We knew that we wanted to help kids in the school district. We weren't sure which way we wanted to go," said senior Gabriella Bruno.

When the idea first came up, the need caught them all by surprise. On average, six-to-ten students use the pantry every day.

"I honestly didn't think that many kids went hungry every single night," said senior Gabriella Miller.

So the four went to work, getting kids to pay a buck to wear pajamas to school for a day and reaching out to parents and others in the community, raising more than $500 in the process.

"We then went shopping at Sam's Club and Giant Eagle and we were able to buy so much food and hygiene products we had like two cartfuls, like giant cartfuls of food," said senior Bethany Rasile.

"We bought countless bars of soap so one kid can take a bar of soap and that's going to help their whole family," said Miller.

While the project itself is technically over, at the same time it's not. They created a Facebook page as part of this project and even today they're accepting donations.

"It means a lot to have those kids, who came through this community, their schools, as student-athletes; to see them give back," said middle school principal Sam Reigle.

"Yeah, I believe that we opened the eyes of people in Niles, getting more of the community members involved through our Facebook page and showing them, hey these are statistics that a lot of the students in Niles go home hungry," said Cline.

And the pantry's in good hands moving forward, organized by students in the 601A class with plenty of food and supplies to go around.

The Dragon Pantry will be open throughout the summer as well, on Mondays and Fridays, and Reigle says he hopes to expand this program in the future.
 

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