There had to be a way, Zoe Drigot figured, to be both here and there – to fundraise for a local non-profit in a way that could benefit communities far away. Plus, there had to be a way to make it fun.
So, last year, as a 10th grader at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, she began brainstorming. The International Baccalaureate program in which she studies requires each student to complete a personal project.
"Some people are learning how to bake, some are learning how to play an instrument, just different things like that," explained Zoe, now 17. "I decided to do a fundraiser."
After considering and deciding against several ideas – an auction? a bake sale? – she learned about Sustainable Schools International. It was the perfect fit: a non-profit based in her hometown that works with communities in Cambodia to support and promote sustainable education and development.
"When I started looking into it, I said, this is a really cool organization," she recalled. "I like that it's sustainable. I like the idea that it sets people up with real-life jobs, real-life skills, real-life education."
Once she decided to fundraise for SSI, the idea just came to her: a dance. A Valentine’s Day Sadie Hawkins dance allowing her and her classmates to send love to Cambodia. It would be a time for fun and friends and even if her fellow students didn’t know the particulars of SSI's work, they would know that the price of their ticket benefited education for children Cambodia.
With friend Harper Lowery, Zoe began navigating the complicated process of getting approval from the student council and administration, getting the dance scheduled, making fliers and posters, selling tickets, recruiting her fellow IB students to help with refreshments – everything that goes into pulling off a dance.
It was a lot of work, but for the second year in a row it was a labor of love. Though she hasn't yet visited Cambodia, she has a deep connection to eastern Asia and traveled to China with her parents, Mary Rapisardo and John Drigot, when she was 9. As part of that trip, she and her parents visited the orphanage in southern China where they first became a family.
For as long as she can remember, her world view has been expansive and outwardly focused, creating links between her life in Fort Collins and all that lies beyond it. So, she was willing to work hard to pull off a dance.
Last year, about 150 students attended and the dance raised $2,500 for SSI, so Zoe thought, let's do this again!
Through the same approval process, with a few organizational hiccups along the way, Zoe recently pulled together the second-annual Valentine’s Day Dance to benefit SSI at Poudre High School. She and a few friends who volunteered to help arranged for a student DJ, created a photo backdrop from a white sheet and icicle lights, happily accepted a donation of student-made snowflake cookies and otherwise made the school cafeteria glow.
More than 70 students attended – about 20 even paying $20 for tickets at the door (they started at $5 in advance) – and contributing to the $1,000 raised for SSI. "It was really fun," Zoe said. "Even though it was smaller this year, everyone was dancing and stayed the whole time."
She said she plans to organize the dance again next year, her senior year, with the goal of supporting an SSI preschool in Cambodia.
"I love being able to connect to a culture," she explained. "For me to really fall in love with a place, I need to feel that connection. Cambodia's just a fascinating country and now I feel completely invested, completely involved."
"What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it." ~C.S. Lewis
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