Opinion

AmeriCorps sweetens Federal Way schools | Nandell Palmer

What a getaway treat it was last Friday evening attending the AmeriCorps’ seventh annual Sweets for Success dessert benefit and auction at Todd Beamer High School.

It couldn’t have been any sweeter.

Not in a few years had I been so captivated by a bunch of positive young people under one roof. I cannot say how long the AmeriCorps volunteers have been rehearsing to perfect their event, but their execution was at its finest.

From the young men outside nattily clad in white shirt, black pants and tie directing traffic to the ushers inside the lobby, one could feel the love upon arrival. With much alacrity and teamwork, everybody rolled up his/her sleeves to create another smashing event.

A number of Federal Way’s movers and shakers were out to lend their support to this worthy cause, bidding on auction items both publicly and privately. Parents, teachers, well-wishers and friends came out in droves, too.

Centered on the Federal Way Public Schools AmeriCorps team’s learning project, Sweets for Success began in 2004 to make a difference among the district’s low-income students. The team recognized that over the years, state and federal school funding had been dwindling while achievement expectations were rising.

Since its inception seven years ago, more than 1,520 awards totaling $81,328 have been given so that students could have the opportunity to participate in sports, art, music, speech and debate.

The program, made up of local talents culled from the city’s public schools, did a marvelous job entertaining the audience.

Balin Lusby, a junior from Decatur High School, awed the crowd with his mystical magic. Kaile Knapp from Totem brought the house down singing Jordin Sparks’ “Battlefield.”

And who ever gets tired of watching the Pacific Islander Dancers do their thing? What an invigorating group!

With a basement-bargain price of $3 per slice, delectable desserts of all descriptions converted a number of us into “sweet tooths” — even if it was for just three hours. By the time the price was lowered to $1, there were hardly any takers.

To mention all of AmeriCorps’ volunteers by name in this column would be impossible, but some do stand out among the crowd for being most visible that evening: Martin Moore, Tomas Campomanes, Libby Miles, Jim Johnson, Monica Gu, Anthony Adams and Jess Petrovich.

Master of ceremonies Jason Weichert handled himself well for the evening, doubling as auctioneer. An alumnus of AmeriCorps, Weichert graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and immediately joined the group in 2003. He’s currently a first-grade teacher at Camelot Elementary School.

It must be noted that Sweets for Success would not be successful had it not been for sponsorships. From its program listing, I counted 114 sponsors. This group included Multi-Service Center, Moore Tire Corporation, McGrath’s Fish House, Casey Rich and The Frye Art Museum.

I love quotations, and two of them caught my eye on the event’s program. In the words of one of America’s revered presidents, Franklin D. Roosevelt, this truism is very much alive and well: “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

The other one from Sir James M. Barrie states, “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”

If it were possible to convert the generous sunshine emitted by Monda Holsinger and her outstanding volunteers last Friday evening into energy, then I would buy the drilling rights to that prospect.

What I admire most about Holsinger is her selfless way of passing along credits to her volunteers. Every time a person compliments her, she spares no time showering her young charges with the work they are doing.

It’s never about her. No wonder so many of them have stayed on for more years than necessary in the program. Federal Way is richer for AmeriCorps being here.

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