March madness for True Lasting Connections

Marilyn Ramirez, Copy Editor/Co-Editor-in-Chief

A competition similar to the NCAA’s March Madness was put into motion at Downey High from Feb. 29 – Mar. 15 with high hopes of raising $21, 550 school wide for True Lasting Connections. TLC provides a variety of aid services to families around the community. For almost three weeks, students and staff helped achieve this goal by turning in a staggering collection of $43, 747.09. Mr. Manzanarez took first place with a grand total of $9,392.69, followed by Ms. Hill with $5,346.55, and Mr. Bradfield in third place with his amount of $4,735.13.

“I really didn’t think about winning when the competition was announced,” Ms. Hill said,  However, once I realized I was making money rather quickly, I refocused my attention on the competition. Rumors were about, and I heard what other teachers were supposedly doing to fundraise.  It also came down to strategy about how much money to donate to the bracket each round. It was fun challenging myself.”

To kick off the event and get students aware of what exactly the madness and the meaning of TLC was, ASB held a rally on Feb. 22 with multiple keynote speakers, sport teams, and dance teams that participated to show their support for the fundraiser.  Counselors and teachers shared their own experiences about students who they referred themselves to TLC, understanding how helpful and worthwhile the results would be.

“I believe this project to be worthwhile,” counselor Adair Lima said. “Kids could not be doing well in school because they have so much on their mind with struggles at home. We need to raise money to help those friends – yours and mine.”

Students left the rally with a new idea of their role in the competition. For the next three weeks, whether for the grand prize of a class party, the extra credit, or out of the entitlement to help their community, the student body transformed into a mass-production cash machine. Donuts, cupcakes, and cake pops were being sold from opposite sides of the school. Michelle Flores, 11, took advantage of the opportunity to sell homemade cupcakes for her teacher, Ms. Romero.

“I had no idea what I was going to do,” Flores said. “I knew I needed to make money easy and fast so I thought, ‘Why not cupcakes?’  Everyone loves sweets and it would definitely be a fun way to help the cause.”

Many students like Flores joined forces with their teachers to advance them as far ahead as possible in the competition. Students provided Mr. Bradfield with chocolate-covered strawberries, brought Mr. Hwang pastries to sell to his class periods, and supplied nachos and other snacks for administrators to offer for TLC. Other students, however, felt teachers were going overboard on the whole event with the outrageous prices for everyday classroom items that were once a free privilege.

“I can’t believe I’m about to pay fifteen dollars for three bathroom passes,” Crystal Fernandez, 11, said. “I get that it’s a great cause and all but that’s ridiculous!”

Whether it was the lure of sweets and snacks, which could then be eaten in class, or the Vikings’ high school spirit with fighting to defeat Warren, Downey raised over $18,828.40 by the second week. Members of the student body, such as Yaritza Figueroa, 11, enjoyed discussing which of their teachers had strong chances of moving onto the next round.

“Mr. Hwang has huge wads of cash in his desk drawer!” Figueroa said. “But with how much Mr. Bradfield is getting, who knows who’s going to win?”

Bathroom passes were not the only items of interest being bartered with students. In the annex, students could buy their way out of a tardy slip. In many classrooms, such as Mrs. Ramirez’s or Mr. Paysse’s, late homework would be accepted and iPods could be used during some class time, all for a minimum fee, of course.

“I think charging for this stuff isn’t such a bad idea,” Mrs. Ramirez said. “I’m glad you guys insist so badly on it.”

With many teachers cut bracket-by-bracket, the competition got fierce. Teachers out of the competition began taking sides with – and even betting on – those they felt had a chance of winning. For example, after Mr. Bradfield had advanced to the top eight contenders, he was approached by the Social Studies Department who offered to give him all of their collections.

“It was very flattering,” Mr. Bradfield said. “Later, many members of the Art Department started giving me money to try and beat Ms. Hill and I even received a huge amount from the Fashion Club.”

The bets, money making schemes and school wide excitement had to come to an end. Thanks to all the Vikings, Downey greatly surpassed its $21,550 goal. Students will be missing the multitude of snacks, drinks, desserts, and bathroom and homework passes offered to them these past few weeks, all for the good of TLC.

True Lasting Connections began in 2000, created by Downey community members who understood what it was like to be in school wondering when their next meal would be. They decided that, instead of looking toward other cities that were in need of assistance, to focus on their own community where hundreds of people live with the hardship of not having dental or medical insurance, money to put food on the table, or the possibility of losing their homes. Thanks to schools around the area, including Downey High, TLC has managed to provide services to families for the past twelve years and for more to come.