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In the Schools Guest Column

AP Psychology Students Organize Family Fun Festival to Raise Money for Special Needs Teens.

Jennifer Drury

Sunday, May 25, 2014 • 12:23am

RANDOLPH, NJ- On Wednesday night, May 21, Randolph High School’s AP Psychology students hosted a Family Fun Festival open to the entire community.  The night included live entertainment from RHS students, games, crafts and an assortment of sweet treats.  
 
The students organized the fundraiser to raise money for ECLC and P.R.I.D.E.  ECLC (Essex County Learning Center) and P.R.I.D.E. (Promoting Responsibility Independence Decision-making Employability) are both programs dedicated to the education of special needs teens and young adults.  
 
Linda Wagner has been a psychology teacher at RHS for eight years now, teaching AP Psychology for three of those years.  Last year was the first annual Family Fun Festival.  Wagner chose to donate to ECLC and P.R.I.D.E. because her daughter has a chromosome duplication, and she knows how hard it is to find programs that are able to "give enough" to each person. Wagner found that ECLC and P.R.I.D.E. gave more than enough. She said that their "unique approach to supporting all people was illuminated."
 
For the second year in a row,  Wagner enlisted her AP Psychology classes to begin preparing for this year's Family Fun Festival, shortly after the AP exams. Together, they applied for service learning funds, bought supplies and planned the night out. They also bought a number of tiles and advertised for people to paint them in honor of Mother's Day. The money they earned from the tiles went into buying more supplies. 
 
"AP Psych students were able to pick what booths we had at the event," Sonaly Bulsara, one of Wagner's peer teachers said. "Ms. Wagner was really supportive of it." 
 
There were a number of tables set up around the RHS gym with activities such as jewelry making, nail art, cupcake decorating, video game challenges, Minute To Win It and even an ice cream experiment. "Put the ingredients in a bag, then put it in another bag, then we shake it," elementary student Anna Ferrier said, as she was making her very own bag of ice cream.
 
Each activity cost a certain amount of tickets to take part in.  Guests were given a passport to be stamped as they completed a craft or game. If a guest filled up her passport, then she would be rewarded with more tickets to take part in other activities. 
 
Sneha Kodappully was enjoying her night - and the cupcake station. She learned how to make a rose out of icing. "I like what they're doing with it for the cause. And I love the cupcakes too.  I never knew how to do that, so now I know!"
 
Allison Ryan had heard about the Family Fun Festival from a Randolph TAP posting on Facebook. Her family was standing at the cupcake decorating table, while her four year old daughter picked out her cupcake. "The minute the music came on both of their eyes lit up" Ryan said, pointing to her one year old twins sitting in a stroller. 
 
In addition to students in her class,  Wagner recruited junior Jesse Bush to be the entertainment director for the night. There were about 15 acts in total. Some students are currently taking AP Psychology, while others were just there to support the cause.  
 
Karsyn Wagner was one of the performers.  Though she isn't currently taking psychology, she plans to in college. She said that Bush had told her a few weeks ago about performing. "There's a lot of energy here," Wagner said after singing a couple songs, "And it's really cool the high school students are running it." 
 
"This year is a lot more lively," Bulsara said, mentioning that the attendance included more elementary students this year and the event was slightly larger. 
 
Vice principal, Michael Sorge, also noticed the turn-out. "It's awesome, and it's nice people come out for these events."
 
Though the event did raise a fair amount of money, Ms. Wagner is already planning on what to improve for next year. She would like to create a student PR team and get the word out "a lot earlier and fill the room."  She also would like to eventually have her students work with special needs students in the district.  Together, she says, they will problem solve through obstacles, make strategies to help the child be successful and "learn to feel the thrill of someone who struggled to accomplish something."  
 
Overall,  Wagner is very proud of her students and finds their success "extremely rewarding."  She also wants to thank all who contributed in one way or another. "My sincere gratitude for anyone who participated," she said. "This world is what we make it. The world we live in is the one we create." 
 
Ms. Wagner and her students are certainly making their world a better place, one step at a time. 
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