To Ty, with love from the heart

NEWPORT CITY – A couple hundred North Country Union High School students, many wearing pink, gathered in the gymnasium yesterday to show they have a heart as big as the gym.Each student paid at least a dollar to join their fellow classmates and form a heart. The money will benefit Ty Robertson, the son of Melissa Jenkins of St. Johnsbury who was murdered in March. Together, the students raised $550.18, well over the goal of $200. North Country Union High School faculty raised $500 and North Country’s alternative program raised $75. North Country seniors, under the direction of Cheryl Currier, raised $1,000 for Robertson before yesterday’s fundraiser. The junior class came up with the idea for the fundraiser after watching “Pay It Forward,” a movie about a seventh grade student who was given an assignment by his teacher to devise a plan to make the world a better place.Junior Sophie Congden is the student who thought her class should watch the movie together. After the movie, each group of 10 students had the task of doing something similar. The final idea was raising money for Robertson.“Kids who want to will come down during their Block III study hall and we will form maybe a heart shaped design with kids,” said Alexander prior to the photo shoot. “Pink was Melissa Jenkins' favorite color. We call it Think Pink.”A few students even had pink hair.The photo shoot, conducted by local photographer Don Whipple, will be made into a motivational poster.Yesterday’s fundraiser had been in the works for about a month.“It’s more than just the money for Ty,” said teacher Peter Alexander. “You can do something nice for someone else and not get anything back in return. That’s what it’s really all about. The money is secondary.”Junior Mariah Roberts, who took part in the fundraiser, said it’s important to help community members. Junior Calvin Peacock found a need to help the family, especially Ty. “It was a very emotional moment,” said Jessie Lanham, director of counseling. She said the money presented by faculty came from the school’s participation in a survey conducted by the University of Michigan. “We felt it would be best use to benefit Ty. We want the best for that young man and feel it’s a good lesion for our kids to pay it forward. We need to step outside of ourselves because people have been giving us things all of our lives. Pay it forward to someone else.”Alexander credited Natalie Gains’ art students with making two large posters that students held during the photo shoot, posters on display throughout the school and sap buckets used to collect the donations. He also credited physical education teacher Ian Denzio for helping organize yesterday’s fundraiser.