High school students work to fight child abuse

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The first week in December, at assemblies for all 2,700 students, leaders of the student council at Enloe High School in Raleigh will talk about child abuse and how students can help fight it.

The assemblies are part of a student council project to raise awareness about the issue, and to raise $50,000 to support SAFEchild, a child abuse prevention agency.

The effort, which is led entirely by students and will culminate in the 9th annual Enloe Charity Ball at Marbles Kids Museum on December 14, is highly unusual, both in the amount of money to be raised and in the fact that the funds will benefit a charity, not the students’ own school.

“I’m not aware of another student group at an individual school that is trying to raise these kinds of dollars for the community,” says Nancy Bromhal, development director at SAFEchild. “SAFEchild is lucky to be able to work with them.”

The effort includes a three-week competition among homerooms that last year raised over $8,000, a campaign to secure sponsorships and in-kind donations from local businesses, a social media campaign, and the sale of tickets and non-alcoholic drinks at the event, which is expected to attract 1,000 students, says Trudy Price-O’Neil, an English teacher at Enloe and adviser to the student council.

Last year’s event netted $51,000 and benefited InterAct of Wake County, a nonprofit that serves victims and survivors of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault.

“People told me there was no way we would do it,” Price-O’Neil says. “My reward was giving that check to InterAct.”

Planning for this year’s ball began last spring, when the newly elected student council president and four vice presidents each identified possible charities to support, met during the summer to narrow the list to four, and visited all four before selecting SAFEchild.

Separate committees of the council, which consists of 70 students, handle tasks for the ball that include food, publicity, decorations, coat-check, tickets and registration, and a mix of other tasks such as logistics and finding photographers.

The council also held a weekend retreat in October at the Short Journey Retreat Center in Smithfield right after a briefing about SAFEchild from some of its staff.

Council committees at the retreat mapped their plans and made assignments for the ball, and its officers trained all members to ask for sponsorships and donations.

“You have to put yourself out there and ask,” says Clara Femia, an Enloe senior who chairs the ball as the council’s vice president of service. “It’s hard, especially the first time, to ask for a donation because asking for money is a difficult thing to do. You just have to do it.”

In email messages she drafted requesting meetings with prospective sponsors, she says, she tried to make sure “people knew I believed what I was doing and that it was worth their time and money.”

As event chair, she says, she has been able to work with SAFEchild’s staff and see “first-hand what they’re doing to really make a difference.”

A big factor in selecting SAFEchild was the “warm welcome” from its staff, Femia says. “It was so obvious how much they wanted our help and appreciated being considered.”

But the determining factor was the agency’s focus, she says.

“There are abused kids at Enloe who could benefit from SAFEchild,” she says. “We knew that giving money to SAFEchild would help kids our age who are being abused. We also knew that for kids who are suffering silently, if we raised money for this charity, it would inevitably raise awareness.”