Three teens who care set a great example

By Times editorial
Published May 22, 2007

American teenagers are sometimes painted as spoiled and self-centered, disengaged from the pain and suffering of much of the world's population. The picture is not an accurate one, but teens sometimes do need to be shown the power for good that they possess.

That is a lesson now well understood by students at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. The school recently raised $9, 468 to help ease the terrible suffering in Darfur, a region of Sudan where more than 200, 000 people have been killed and 2.5-million displaced by vicious fighting between rebels and militia.

Some 2, 000 American schools participated in the Dollars for Darfur campaign, which involved high school students and was conducted through online Web sites popular with teens. But only two of those schools raised more money than Clearwater Central Catholic.

CCC junior Christine Ochsner organized the effort here after learning about it from a friend in Massachusetts. She did research on the Darfur region and recruited CCC friends, including Jennifer Ackerman and Megan Shanahan, to help conduct the campaign.

With a goal of $5, 000, they spread the word about Darfur - the stories and images, commonly seen on television newscasts, are difficult to erase from memory - and about how even teenagers in Clearwater, Florida, could have an impact in that faraway region.

Many at the school joined in, from students to administrators to cafeteria workers, who cooked a meal of rice, bread and water to illustrate the kind of food refugees in Darfur eat, when they eat at all. The students held a bake sale, sold T-shirts and took part in competitions to raise money.

"It was so powerful to see all these kids wanting to do something to help, " said Ochsner, who is 17.

When the campaign ended, the CCC students had almost doubled their original goal. Because they did so well, the CCC organizers have won a trip to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress and those working in the nonprofit Save Darfur Coalition.

The CCC students, like others around the country who also worked to raise dollars for Darfur, have tapped into a power they, we hope, will not soon forget. Even while they are teenagers, and later as adults, they can have an enormous positive impact on communities far away and right here at home. It takes only time, energy and heart.