Liverpool: Donlin Drive Elementary: A caring community

"It's a matter of meeting the needs of our society," Sardella said. "It stems from the cultural effect of the media. Kids are exposed to so much at such a young age. The challenges are daily because of those experiences. It's a matter of children taking responsibility for their own actions. We work hard with families to help children make the right choices."

One way the school accomplishes that is by offering numerous extracurricular activities, including student council, academic support, garden club, snowshoeing club, Rocket Club (in which students build rockets from models and launch them at the end of the year) and a science fair. Students are involved in their community, sending holiday cards to the seniors at Birchwood and contributing to the food pantry at St. Patrick's Church. The students raise money throughout the year for a selected charity; this year it's the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The school is also open to community activities like Optimist basketball and color guard.

"We really pride ourselves on working as a complete unit," Sardella said. "Our focus is to make kids feel like a million bucks."

Children at play

The kids of DDE are in need of a new playground to match their beautiful new building. Physical education teacher Bob Zenker, who has been at the school for more than three decades, said discussions for fundraising for the structure began last week.

"We'll need $75,000," Zenker said. "The fundraiser will kick off with a T-shirt sale at our open house."

Zenker said the school hopes to have the new playground built in a year and a half. He said the school is seeking corporate donations and other sources of money. In addition, the kids will help out.

"We're going to have a quarter drop at our open house in two weeks," Zenker said. "The kdis will climb the cargo nets in the gym. They'll have quarters taped to their shirts and once they get to the top, they'll drop the quarters into the kiddie pools we'll have set up at the bottom. It's a perfect analogy -- our kids can be actively involved in building their new playground."

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