Student gets celebrities to help with fund-raising

May 20, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

When Jennifer "Jennie" Thomas wants to help those in need, the Hammond Middle School student doesn't ask just anyone for support.

She calls on the celebrities -- Clint Eastwood, Gloria Estefan, Norman Schwarzkopf and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

They are some of the 29 respondents to letters she sent asking for autographed items that could be auctioned to raise money for a needy school in Baltimore.

"I like to do community stuff," Jennie said. "I just hope that it helped."

This is the second year Jennie, 13, has raised money for James McHenry Elementary School, for her gifted and talented class project. A summary of Jennie's project and 99 others will be on display in Hammond Middle School's media center at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

On Jennie's display will be letters from organizations such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Oprah Winfrey Show.

The individuals or their organization sent autographed pictures of the celebrity or of something the person is affiliated with, such as Gov. William Donald Schaefer's photographs of Maryland.

"I was sort of surprised that they responded," Jennie said. "I didn't expect as many as we got."

On March 17, Jennie held a silent auction for the items in the school media center. Governor Schaefer's photographs of Maryland received the highest single bid of $42. A photograph of Clint Eastwood generated a small bidding war that peaked at $22.50.

Jennie raised nearly $400 to purchase books for the James McHenry Elementary School library.

"The neatest thing is the interest in helping that school," said Pat Greenwald, a gifted and talented resource teacher at Hammond Middle School. "It's also kind of neat to see someone at this age continue something from one year to the next."

Last year, Jennie received $130 in donations to buy books for the school. In addition, donors such as U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and the Orioles baseball team gave 50 books to Jennie for the elementary school, and computer software companies donated hundreds of dollars worth of educational software.

Jennie got the idea for the project during her 1992 summer vacation, when she read a newspaper article about the Steuart Hill school in Baltimore.

The article said that although the school's principal had made major improvements at the school, there was a need for many supplies, including library books. Jennie decided to help.

The project became Jennie's submission for the school system's "Type III" program, a component of the Gifted and Talent program.

Students in the Type III class are required to identify a problem, come up with a solution and present the solution to an audience.

When Jennie presented her idea, she discovered that Steuart Hill had received many donated books because of the newspaper article.

Howard Quinn, a teacher at Hammond Middle, suggested that Jennie collect books for another school, James McHenry Elementary, where his wife, Esther Quinn, worked and where there also was a need for library books and computer software.

"They sent her some wonderful programs," Ms. Quinn said. "These things are really getting the kids interested in computers. The books that she's given us are used constantly. I just can't say enough about what she's done. Jennie, in my estimation, is wonderful."

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