Faculty serves community

Kalleen Rose Ozanic, Editor-in-Chief

In West Milford, the season of giving is truly upon us. With the holidays so near, it warms the heart to see West Milford High School’s teachers and faculty giving back to the community. Led by Nicole Petrosillo, English teacher, in coordination with Kelly Hart of the Highlands Family Success Center and Kim Haggerty of West Milford CrossFit Strength and Conditioning, the faculty completed three service projects during the December 5 faculty meeting.
The first part of the event was creating greeting cards for those served by the Highlands Family Success Center. The teachers made around one hundred greeting cards, specifically themed for the holiday season. According to Petrosillo, “The art department set up beautiful painted samples, which the teachers then replicated, and we were able to express our creativity together while being able to benefit others.”
While the holiday greeting cards were being painted, another ensemble of educators helped prepare for the holiday toy drive. Teachers individually wrapped small gifts for the toy drive, which the Highland Family Success Center sponsored. The HFSC toy drive is an invaluable community event where families in need are able to select two unwrapped gifts from the collected toys while “Santa gives each visiting child a special gift, which were the gifts the faculty was wrapping,” Petrosillo elaborated.
Perhaps the most significant station of the project that the teachers completed was the one for a new initiative called Book Bag Bites, created by Kim Haggerty, a graduate of WMHS. This program was created in a direct effort to help disadvantaged children in West Milford, specifically forty-two students enrolled in Marshall Hill Elementary School. For some impoverished families, it may be difficult to have enough food to last the weekend or over a school break. The Book Bag Bites station had teachers assembling packages of food for children who receive free or reduced lunch or whose families are on SNAP benefits. Sometimes these students “might not know when their next meal will be,” says Petrosillo, because they are dependent on school-provided breakfast as well. Teachers and staff collected non-perishable foods for roughly two weeks in preparation for this major effort.
To begin, a Ziploc gallon-sized bag was filled with two breakfast items, two snack items, and two dinner items. These Ziplocs were then put into paper bag, to maintain the privacy of the children receiving them. Haggerty had requested forty packages, though these expectations were exceeded when the teachers produced 111.
Petrosillo said this project came to be as a result of her role as Passaic County Teacher of the Year and NJ State Teacher of the Year Finalist, “I hope to improve school and community relations in our town and this was an amazing opportunity for us to give back to our residents and show how much we care.”
Thanks to the efforts of the staff, this holiday season has been filled with generosity and care for others. They are looking forward to partnering with HFSC in future service projects. If you would like to donate to Book Bag Bites, which is not just a holiday program, but rather a year-round endeavor, please see Mrs. Petrosillo for the list of requested items.