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High school club makes holiday brighter

Students want to find new ways to help community
by: Carole Archer, In the foreground, Isaiha Huff, 17, a senior at Reynolds High School and a member of the Unity Club, helps organize toys that were donated to a Christmas drive for families at the school. The drive is among the service projects the club undertakes.

On Thursday afternoon, Dec. 20, members of the African American Unity Club at Reynolds High School were busy organizing holiday food and toy packages for 20 families with students at the school.

School staff members, as well as community businesses and professionals, donated items in the packages. Among the donors were Rick and Michele Blomdahl, parents of Eric Blomdahl, a Reynolds junior who died Oct. 12 in an ATV accident.

The Blomdahls donated about $200 worth of food to the drive, Michele said. She noted that it was a comforting action they took in memory of their son.

'Eric loved all of his friends at school and would have wanted to be there,' she said. 'Eric was a friend to just so many people there that I imagine at least one of his friends got these baskets.'

When the Unity Club finished its work, Debra Gooden, skills trainer at the school and the club's adviser, stood before club members and gave them kudos.

'You guys have done a wonderful thing,' she said. 'You guys have done a good job. I'm proud of your hard work. Some children are going to have a great Christmas.'

Reflecting on the students' efforts, Gooden was like a mother proud of her children.

'It was never once 'Me, me, me' from these guys.'

She added later that she enjoys the group's energy and enthusiasm.

'They actually fortify me,' she said. 'I think it's a gift that we all have to be able to embrace each other. They give me love and respect back.'

Angela Taylor, 17, a senior, shared the sentiments expressed by several of the club's 37 members, who include white, Hispanic and Native American students.

'I felt it's important to do this, to show our kids at school have a lot of better things to do … to help the less fortunate,' Taylor said.

The members agree that the club allows students to participate in activities other than sports and academics. The club meets every Thursday after school, and has organized other community service activities as well as the school's annual Black History Month celebration each February.

Organizing the gift packages was a spiritual experience for Leeland Luru, 16, a sophomore.

'I joined because I wanted to help out people in the community.'

Isaiha Huff, 17, a senior, agreed.

'Without this, many people in the community wouldn't be able to have a good Christmas, and we're able to give them a good Christmas.'

He added that he wants the Unity Club to organize other community service activities, including street-cleanings and reading with children.

'I feel like you can look back on this day and say, 'I did something to affect my community.' '

Jamiece Watts, 17, a senior, said she liked the emotions the service project surfaced.

'It's just nice seeing someone else have a good Christmas,' she said. 'It might only be for a day, but it's worth the smile in the end.'

Andreá Clay, 17, a senior, said she hoped the gift package project showed the school a different face of the Unity Club.

'A lot of people thought we were just a black club and messing around,' she said.

Jamiece was even more pointed in her comments. She noted that African-American students are sometimes stereotyped negatively, and that the club's activities serve to debunk such images.

'It shows that we are good,' she said. 'That we're not just rowdy and ghetto.'

Michele Blomdahl said she was impressed with the Unity Club members.

'They were so excited about making these baskets,' she said. 'They were hugging me. They were just genuine. It was a very nice thing.'