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Kean Students Make a Difference Despite Rain

Oct. 27, 2007 — Whether or not Ivanna Eudora Kean High School wins the national Make a Difference Day competition, the students have still won, according to principal Sharon A. McCollum. And one of the ways they’re winning, she said, is through an increasing partnership with their East End neighbor, The Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Students from Kean joined millions across the nation by participating in what is called the largest national day of helping, known as Make a Difference Day, in which volunteers are encouraged to do something helpful for individuals or organizations in need.
In addition to simply volunteering, Kean decided to compete for Make a Difference Day grants by advertising their volunteer efforts and then measuring the impact of their help upon the community. Winners can receive up to $10,000 which they accept on behalf of a charity of their choosing.
Kean had a slate of volunteer activities planned for Saturday, spearheaded by assistant principal Alicia Leerdam. But bad weather forced the postponement of some of the work, rendering it ineligible for consideration in the national contest. While an enormous linen distribution took place, as well as free cosmetology treatments, rain forced the postponement of a beach cleanup and a campus beautification effort.
“We’ll go forward with what we have,” said McCollum. “Whether we win this or not, I feel we’ve already won. And we’ve got help from the Ritz-Carlton which I think is huge in terms of the amount of people it’s impacted in our the community.”
McCollum was referring to the estimated $20,000 worth of linens the Ritz donated to the school for Make a Difference Day, much of which students distributed on Saturday to organizations across St. Thomas.
The Ritz-Carlton emptied a warehouse full of used, but high-quality, linens into a National Guard transport truck, said McCollum, and brought it to Kean, where students unloaded it, separated it, and readied it for distribution to charitable organizations.
“We couldn’t find the right channel of distribution for all these linens and the advantage of our collaboration with the school was they already had a vision of what to do with it and how to distribute it through the community,” said Marc Langevin, general manager of the hotel.
This isn’t the first time Kean and the Ritz-Carlton have worked together, and it won’t be the last, both McCollum and Langevin said. Last summer, Kean students took advantage of intern opportunities at the Ritz, and more are planned throughout the year and next summer, said Langevin.
“Too often people think of hospitality as housekeeping, but a hotel is a full industry — you have engineers, information, accounting — a full world that people don’t think about,” Langevin said.
While students helped load linens into vehicles from organizations such as Queen Louise Home for the Aged, as well as shelters for the homeless and battered women, eight cosmetology students donned their aprons, stoked up the curlers, and stood ready to receive guests invited from local churches and senior centers to take advantage of free makeovers.
Heather Riviere could not have been more satisfied with the sprucing she received.
“The students — they know what they’re doing. They’re doing an excellent job and I am well pleased,” Riviere said, showing off her new manicure as senior Kemesha Brathwaite carefully intertwined hair weaves, after having applied a relaxer to Riviere's hair.
“I want to make a difference,” said Brathwaite, “make people look beautiful.”
By 2 p.m., a dozen people had enjoyed makeovers, but instructor Javaite Brin had hoped there would be more. The hard rain, she said, diminished the anticipated turnout.
Make a Difference Day is a collaboration between USA Weekend, Points of Light Foundation & Volunteer Center National Network, and actor and philanthropist Paul Newman. USA Weekend sponsors the day through 600 local newspapers which reach more than 47-million people. Points of Light helps with volunteer recruitment, and Newman donates $100,000, which is divided evenly between the 10 winning entries, to go to a charity of their choice.
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