Why We IGC: A conversation with stellar supporters at Ridgway Middle School

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Committed students at Ridgway Middle School lead all of their school’s fundraising efforts, learning simultaneously about helping others and leadership!

Our passionate supporters at Ridgway Middle School in New Jersey have an innovative student-led model to support Water for South Sudan which has helped them reach fundraising goals and has placed young students in key leadership roles. We recently asked Candi Schwartz, a 5th grade math teacher at the school, about their efforts and experiences. Continue reading the interview below to learn about their Iron Giraffe Committee, special dedication month, and overall enthusiasm (you can see some awesome t-shirts, too)!


WFSS: Why did you first decide to participate in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? How did you learn of it?

Candi: Here at Ridgway Middle School, we had guest readers come into our fifth grade classrooms and read the book A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. On the last day of the reading, the fifth grade students discussed the book collaboratively and decided they wanted to help the people of South Sudan. The fifth grade teachers researched ALL possible ways to help and presented them to the fifth grade class. Every fifth grader voted and they voted to raise money for the IGC. Having a well drilled was only one vote less. The executive decision was then made to do both!

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WFSS: You participated in the IGC for three years in a row and completed the pledge each year. What was your motivation and your students’ motivation for doing so?

Candi: Honestly, the students’ biggest motivation is the chance of winning a visit with Salva himself. He is like a rock star here at Ridgway Middle School Don’t get me wrong, the (now seventh graders) want nothing more than to help the people of South Sudan, but the chance of having their “hero” here at their school is great motivation!

WFSS: Your school fundraises primarily during the month of March for Water for South Sudan. Can you explain your thoughts behind having a special month to focus on WFSS and what activities you do?

Candi: The Iron Giraffe Committee meets all school year. Having one focus month of fundraising is for the sole purpose of time and energy. Everyone is seriously busy (kids included) with many clubs and after school activities. The decision was made to dedicate one month and work 100% (or more) on South Sudan only. The kids and staff involved go 500 mph for the entire month. We love everything about it and there are really no words to express the gratitude we feel behind every single donation!

The students and staff members collect money every day at lunch for different weekly incentives. Weekly incentives include: Tape a teacher to the wall, bracelet sales, t-shirt sales, turn the cafeteria wall blue, pay to get out of class for 1 ½ board game time, etc… All ideas come from our students involved in the Iron Giraffe Committee. We also have a WFSS dance!

“We love everything about it and there are really no words to express the gratitude we feel behind every single donation!”

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WFSS: What has been the most inspiring part of fundraising with your students?

Candi: For me, the most inspiring part is watching the children work hard for others. The students have a deep passion for Salva and helping the people in South Sudan. They feel like they are making a difference by using their time, energy, and talents!

“The students have a deep passion for Salva and helping the people in South Sudan. They feel like they are making a difference by using their time, energy, and talents!”

WFSS: What would you say to a teacher considering participating in the Iron Giraffe Challenge? Do you have any advice for them?

Candi: I would definitely encourage any teacher to participate in the IGC. My advice would be to start by reading the book and then go from there. You don’t need all the answers. I had no clue what I was doing and if I’m being honest, I still don’t have a clue. The kids are the ones with the amazing ideas, I just help facilitate. At the end of the day, everything is for good, everything is helping the people of South Sudan. There really isn’t a way to mess up. Just jump in and wing it! This is what I did and my co-workers jumped in right along with me and it’s the best decision we ever made.


Thank you to Candi for taking the time to speak with us and to everyone at Ridgway Middle School for their continued support! If you would like to join the IGC alongside passionate like-minded educators and students, visit this page to register and learn more!

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