Taco Your Teacher, Burrito Your Buddy

Care to Learn St. Louis Region

By Annie Mayrose

March 12, 2019

There are few sounds in life louder than an entire gymnasium filled with middle schoolers during a rally

There are few sounds in life louder than an entire gymnasium filled with middle schoolers during a rally-- the day before Halloween weekend. I was in awe, a huge grin stuck on my face, and slightly afraid of the sheer energy of the tween mob. The invitation I received was to accept an over-sized check on behalf of the Wright City middle school student body to the Wright City Chapter of Care to Learn. It seemed pretty innocent and non-descript. I came prepared with a short speech and a few Halloween jokes up my sleeve, but was definitely not anticipating this intensity and scene before me.

The backstory, which I quickly absorbed, was that this rally marked the culmination of a highly competitive and passionate penny drive. For weeks, Wright City students, staff and faculty were collecting spare change to help meet the emergent health, hunger and hygiene needs of local students through the Care to Learn – Wright City Chapter. Most of the student body were anonymously, and selflessly, reducing barriers for their peers to attend and be able to focus in school. Food insecurity, inaccessibility to healthcare, transportation gaps, unstable housing, and the lack of basic needs not only cause shame and stigma for kids, but often keeps under-resourced students from exceling in school. Because who can concentrate in math or science when you are itching non-stop from lice, have worn the same clothes for three days, and haven’t eaten for two of them? The reality is that over 50% of all Missouri public school students’ qualify for federal free or reduced lunch rates and low-income students are four times more likely to be chronically absent. Students across our state-- often have to focus on basic survival over an education.

Wright City Middle School students continue to challenge these statistics, while simultaneously building a positive school culture, commitment to service, and inspiring a philanthropic spirit. Each coin collected throughout the penny drive was a chance to vote for, or against, a team (comprised of students, faculty and staff) to participate in ‘Taco your teacher, burrito your buddy’. Perhaps I should explain….? Ever wish you could pour nacho cheese and sour cream on your seventh grade English teacher’s head? Do you love tacos and wish you could swim in salsa and guacamole? Throw shredded cheese and hamburger meat at your Principal? Now’s your chance to live the dream.

Back at the rally, the excitement was building. All that spare change added up. The Principal announced that $2,400 was collected, and the crowd went wild. The kids started chanting ‘Care to Learn’ over and over again, with a deafening roar. When the gym finally quieted enough for the microphone to be heard, the winning teams were announced (in order of votes). More squeals from the bleachers, as the teams gathered, and students identified their teachers and friends. The winning teams organized by tables stocked with massive bowls of lettuce, shredded cheese, Costco-sized containers of salsa, sour cream and more. The losing teams cautiously put on goggles and reluctantly sat down in kiddy pools, spaced out before the masses. It began. ‘Taco your teacher, burrito your buddy’ suddenly became very clear. Laughter, shouts of encouragement, oooohhs, and gasps from the crowd were accompanied by pictures and Facebook posts-- as the audience collectively cringed and giggled at the same time.

In the world of fundraising, development and philanthropy, it is an experience I will never forget. Never underestimate the power of nacho cheese, junior high humor, and the compassion and dedication of local students. This year, the Wright City Middle School rally was called ‘Sundae Spectacular.’  You do the math.

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