School Bulletin: Small steps make big impact for Ukrainian refugees

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Random Lake Middle School has just shy of 200 students, but the small community is making a big difference for Ukrainian refugees this spring. Each month, the student council completes a service project. For April, the kids raised $17,005.37 during a walkathon. Their goal was just $10,000.

"I've learned that it's not always the adults who can make a big change," Lena Schoenefeld, a 7th grader, says. "You can do something too, no matter how old you are."

"You don't have to be a big community in a big city to make a big difference," Alexandra Schmit, a fellow 7th grader, says.

Laurie Biermann is a 7th grade teacher at Random Lake and helps the student council. She says the kids worked especially hard in the weeks leading up to the fundraiser getting families, friends and even businesses to donate.

"It was very scary at first because we didn't know what would happen or what they would say," Sarah Mitchell, an 8th grader, says. "But I kind of talked to them how I'd talk to them in real life. It was kind of helpful to have people you know."

More than a dozen local companies contributed. One donated $5,000.

Then on Friday, April 29, the students' hard work paid off. Everyone from the middle school took turns walking the track for their cause.

"[The students] were so focused on what the purpose was that it was fantastic," Biermann says. "The kids were having fun together and fun with understanding, with purpose."

Reed Traas, a 7th Grader on student council, explains the group choice Ukraine "because of the atrocities that are happening."

"We found this Capuchin friary [in Poland] that was willing to take our donations, and we kind of just went off from there," Traas says.

The school says money collected from the walkathon will go directly to Ukrainians in need. But the students didn't stop there.

"We wrote letters to senators asking them to grant six-month visas to orphan children so they can stay with their American host families," Schmit explains.

"They were trying to get adopted, but the whole mess stopped the process from happening," Schoenefeld says.

The students say they've talked about the war in Ukraine in class. Data from the United Nations on May 13 shows 6.1 million Ukrainians have fled since February.

"I've kind of learned to be grateful for what I've had," Mitchell says.

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