Giving students the gowns off their backs

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 4.06.47 PMStudents halfway across the world will be able to share in some of the same pomp and circumstance as Charlotte kids thanks to the help of recent graduates. 

A number of Myers Park High School graduates donated their caps and gowns to The Foundation for Tomorrow, or TFFT, after their commencement ceremonies on Monday, June 16. The items – nearly 50 sets of caps and gowns – will be sent to impoverished students in Tanzania

“The collection of caps and gowns is important to us because of their symbolic meaning of educational achievement,” said Keenan Caddel, a rising senior at Myers Park High and co-president of the school’s TFFT Club for the 2014-15 school year. “Our club strives to assure that the kids in Tanzania know that we are supporting them. By providing the graduating students with a cap and gown, we demonstrate our continued support in their monumental achievements, especially by the educational standards of Tanzania and Africa as a whole. It’s special to recognize the significance of giving their cap and gown to someone over 8,000 miles away that means so much to them.”

Two Charlotte natives founded TFFT in 2007 to benefit orphaned children in Tanzania. According to Unicef, there are more than 2 million orphaned children in Tanzania, and most orphanages do not have the resources or capacity to care for children after the age of five. Often, children age out of orphanages and are left without the means to attend school.

Donations given to TFFT are used to place these children in quality boarding schools until the 12th grade. The organization currently aids 82 students, according to their website.

Maggie Boorman, who is now a rising junior at Clemson University, initiated a school-wide donation of caps and gowns at Myers Park High three years ago to give to students in Tanzania through TFFT. Last year, the Myers Park Club of TFFT sponsored Richard Francis, a student from Usa River Academy in Tanzania.

The year Richard graduated, he wore the cap and gown that was donated by the family of graduate David Shannon, who died in 2012.

“It was very special last year for us to be able to give that to Richard,” Keenan, 16, said. There is never a lack of need for caps and gowns overseas, Keenan added, as children in Tanzania graduate from different forms of schooling rather than grades.

The club also works closely with TFFT to achieve the foundation’s goals.

“The other officers and I work closely with Meghann Bourne and Kaitlin Rogers, the founder and executive director of TFFT and the director of communications for TFFT, to coordinate the needs of the students with the types of drives that we hold to collect objects like caps and gowns that seem commonplace to us, but are luxuries to the kids in Tanzania,” Keenan said.

Mary Jordan Carpenter, a rising senior at Myers Park and the 2013-2014 president of Myers Park’s TFFT Club, said the donation gives Myers Park students a more global perspective.

“It gives us a time to think about what (the Tanzanian students) go through and appreciate what we’ve been given,” she said.

Mary hopes the club will continue to carry out the tradition of supporting TFFT and giving.

“I want to make sure the (Tanzanian) students know they have people all over the world fighting for them,” she said.

The club will continue to donate caps and gowns to TFFT, Keenan said, but also plans to localize their efforts and start a tutoring program to help area students. The club also is planning to team-up with the TFFT Club at Charlotte County Day School to create a Charlotte version of Ride TZ, a 300-mile bike-ride TFFT takes each year in Tanzania. TFFT collects donations and invites more than 100 donors to travel to Tanzania to take the ride to Mount Kilimanjaro.

Myers Park High staff loves to see students take the extra step outside of the classroom to recognize people in need. Joyce Palmieri, a choral teacher at Myers Park High who oversaw the collect effort, said the program serves as another example of philanthropy in Myers Park students.

“Whenever you foster any kind of service, like giving, it makes you a better person,” Palmieri said.

Graduates or their families still interested in donating their caps and gowns can drop items off at 2124 Beverly Drive or at the main office at Myers Park High, 2400 Colony Road.

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Courtney Schultz

About Courtney Schultz

Courtney Schultz is a recent college graduate from Campbell University in Buies Creek, N.C. She has both a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Political Science. At Campbell, she was the editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper for nearly three years and worked for the Siskey YMCA in their membership services and marketing department. She mostly covers education news for the Matthews, Mint-Hill, and greater Charlotte areas.

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