Club Spotlight: Richard Wright Project

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By Paula Miller, Managing Web Editor

There is no shortage of service clubs at Conestoga, but the Richard Wright Project has found a new, unique opportunity for students to make a difference. The club was founded by junior Sarah Mascioli in order to support the Richard Wright School, a K-5 elementary school located in Strawberry Mansion, Philadelphia. Mascioli had the idea to start a club after helping with a book drive for the Richard Wright School and meeting the principal.

“I started talking to the principal and she was describing all these different things that they needed for the school and stuff that she wanted to do,” Mascioli said. “I was just talking to my mom on the way home and I was saying how Conestoga could do so much for (the school) if it was a club, so that’s pretty much how it started.”

Mascioli drafted Spanish teacher Marianna Gazzara to sponsor the club. New to Conestoga this year, Gazzara previously worked at a charter school in Philadelphia and is familiar with the challenges facing inner city schools.

“I experienced firsthand a lot of the problems that the Richard Wright school encounters, such as just a lack of teacher resources, even things as simple as paper and materials for the students,” Gazzara said. Helping to provide resources “was something that I could definitely connect with and something that I would love to assist teachers with.”

For their first project, the club is conducting a college t-shirt drive to support the principal’s plan for a monthly college t-shirt day. This new initiative aims to inspire students and normalize the idea of college.

“At the school that I was at, (college) wasn’t a part of the conversation. It was just something that wasn’t a reality to (the students),” Gazzara said. “I think it’s a great idea.”

Since many of the students don’t own college t-shirts, the Richard Wright Project decided to help collect new or gently used shirts from the Conestoga community.

“Our goal is 380 t-shirts, one for every student, so that for these t-shrit days, everyone will have one and be able to wear it and participate in it,” Mascioli said.

The drive will continue until the end of January, with drop off sites at Conestoga and T/E Middle. Mascioli hopes to make the college t-shirt drive an annual event. Future plans for the club may include sponsoring activities for teacher appreciation week and organizing classrooms.

“The main goal is pretty much to give extra little things to these kids and things that just are fun for them, and opportunities that they maybe wouldn’t have had before,” Mascioli said.

Paula Miller can be reached at [email protected].