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Warm hearts: Students across the district are helping out their community

Padmanabha Kavasseri, 16, right, delivers sleeping bags with his father Rajesh Kavasseri, from left, and the Connor family including Shad, Heidi, Gavin, 11, and Grant, 14, to the Dorothy Day House on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Some are working on their own, while others are working as a group, but across the West Fargo School District, students are finding ways to give back to their community during the holiday season, especially to those who are homeless or in need of warm winter clothes and supplies.

On Monday, Dec. 19, Shoni Kavasseri, a junior at West Fargo High School, dropped sleeping bags off for those in need at the Dorothy Day House in Moorhead.

Kavasseri, 16, approached Thrivent Lutheran and received a large enough donation to buy about 15 of the warm blankets. But, he's not planning to stop with just one donation.

"I want to enlarge what I've been doing," he said. "My end goal is to start up a homeless shelter in West Fargo. I'm going to continue to provide material things that the homeless need, but I hope to someday open a shelter."

Kavasseri said after living in West Fargo for about seven years, he saw the problem of homelessness in this area and how it can be overlooked.

"I always looked away and then I thought, 'Let me be that person that doesn't look away anymore,' " Kavasseri said. "If everyone looks away, the problem will never be solved. I started to work on trying to find help for them and that's how I started this project, 'Don't Look Away.' "

At West Fargo Sheyenne, about 60 Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) students in grades nine through 12 are helping AVID teacher Alison Jung with a clothing drive that is collecting clothes, primarily winter weather gear, that will be donated to the Clothing Closet in West Fargo.

"As part of the AVID class, we teach them about giving back to the community and give back to others and a cause of some sort," Jung said.

The Clothing Closet, located at the Lodoen Kindergarten Center, allows families in the West Fargo School District to buy gently used clothing at little cost.

"It's really cool because it helps students directly in our school district, so [donations] stay right here in our community," Jung said. "Thus far, we've collected quite a bit of clothing, specifically winter clothes because that's really what they are in need of right now. I've been really impressed because people are very conscience of the winter needs and what's in demand right now, that's what they are donating."

The Sheyenne National Honor Society is partnering with AVID to collect jeans as well, which will be donated to SoleHope, a service project that provides shoes to the children of Africa while also providing jobs to people in Uganda.

Even younger students are trying to lend a hand to their community. Liberty Middle School Principal Michelle Weber said three students there are hosting a drive to help Churches United for the Homeless, and the Lego Club has participated in a pet food drive to help support local animal shelters, which just wrapped up Friday.

Principal Michael Shea at Independence Elementary School said earlier this year that one second-grader there collects food for the local food pantry every year on her birthday. She invites friends to come to her party and bring food instead of presents. This year, she invited everyone in the school to participate, Shea said. The student raised more than 400 pounds of food to be donated.

The Sheyenne High School Child Development class is also collecting donations for infants as part of a baby drive. The child development class teaches kids the importance of child care and how to properly take care of a baby. Students learn physical development, emotional development and intellectual development needs of an infant.

The baby drive will collect items Dec. 19-22 and Jan. 3-6. AVID's clothing drive goes until Friday, Dec. 22, and the students plan to deliver the clothing after winter break is over.

Items for both drives can be dropped off in the Sheyenne High School school office at 800 40th Ave. E.

"It's really cool that it is student driven," Jung said of the clothing drive. " It's really great that the students are taking the initiative. The fact students are going out and helping those in our community is pretty special. "

Wendy Reuer

Wendy reports for The Forum and West Fargo Pioneer, where she is also assistant editor. A University of Minnesota Morris graduate from North Dakota, Wendy started her career in television news and entertainment in Minnesota and at CBS in Television City, Calif. before working at newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota. 

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