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Students set sights on helping the needy

Fourteen Richmond Hill students are helping people see the world more clearly.
Beginning in early October, members of the Holy Child Jesus School’s National Junior Honor Society organized a drive to collect as many pairs of new or used eyeglasses as possible. One month and 450 pairs of glasses later, the group of eighth-graders is ready to donate the glasses to New Eyes for the Needy, a Short Hills, NJ-based organization that provides glasses to the less fortunate.
New Eyes for the Needy Executive Director Pamela DePompo and Director of Development and Communication Susan Dyckman surprised the students in the school’s library Wednesday, November 14, making the trek from New Jersey to praise the group for its work.
“It’s great to have young people - 13- or 14-year-old kids - willing to make such a strong commitment to someone else,” said Dyckman. “It’s a simple concept, but you’re giving the gift of vision.”
The students conducted the drive by appealing to classrooms in the school, family members, and local businesses. At first, the project didn’t look promising, but a major push during the final week salvaged success.
But, while students agree the project could have been more successful, no one is complaining about the end result.
“It wasn’t just us 14, it was the entire community working together,” emphasized Justin Chandrashekhar, 13.
“Having community support makes you feel like people in the neighborhood really do care about other people in the world,” added student Kevin Singh. “It also makes us feel like they’ll be willing to help us again in the future.”
From here, the glasses will travel to the New Eyes headquarters, where they will be cleaned, then sorted into categories depending on prescription, size and type. They will be distributed both in the United States and in countries where there is a need for eyeglasses.
Students decided to commit to the New Eyes project after their advisor, Angelina Quiatchon, asked them to check out the organization’s website, www.neweyesfortheneedy.org.
“The website really inspired us,” said 13-year-old Nicole Ariza.
And, while the project strays from more typical food, clothing and goods drives, students stressed that the importance of glasses is underestimated.
“Sometimes people don’t think it’s a big deal, but being able to see allows people to get jobs, to read and gain knowledge,” said student Gianna Lugo.
In some countries, glasses can cost up to eight months’ salary, so the need for glasses runs deep, explained DePompo.
Quiatchon expressed pride at her students’ accomplishment.
“This is something they don’t get from textbook and classroom instruction,” she said. “It helps them realize one of their Catholic teachings. They fulfill their service role.”
The National Junior Honor Society selects students based on academics, leadership and community service. Christina John, 13, said she hopes her group’s work will inspire future National Junior Honor Society students.
“Our only regret would have to be that we can’t come back next year and do this again,” she said, “but we hope future groups can come back and do something similar.”

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