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The Student United Way club collected playground equipment for United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania’s “Kick It Up for Recess” drive in January. Photo courtesy Maggie Flanagan
The Student United Way club at Conestoga is one of the first of its kind. This year, it became one of only three high school Student United Way clubs in the nation, working in tandem with United Way Worldwide on fundraising and community service projects.
As a global organization, United Way works to promote education, income stability and healthy living. President and sophomore
Andrew Utter founded the club to engage the Conestoga community in meeting these objectives and to foster a life-long passion for community service.
“Conestoga High School is an extremely gifted school with many opportunities for students to get involved. However, there really [was not] a current club that students [could] continue through college,” Utter said.
The club was recognized at a school board meeting on March 26 for its contributions to the “Kick It Up for Recess” drive that was held in January. For the drive, Student United Way facilitated the collection of new and used playground equipment for Philadelphia area schools.
“After collecting sports equipment at Conestoga, T/E Middle School and Valley Forge Middle School for less than a week, the collections [amounted to] much more than expected,” said English teacher Patrick Gately, who sponsors the club along with wife and English teacher Karen Gately.
Many members have volunteered at the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center in Norristown, serving lunch and assisting with necessary repairs and cleanup.
“We got a feel of how different it is from our life—to see how people can go from [living one life] to that extreme of not having anything,” community service officer sophomore Meghan Connors said.
As president, Utter communicates regularly with Maggie Flanagan, a coordinator of civic engagement for United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania. According to Flanagan, United Way is just beginning to work to implement United Way Clubs at high schools like Conestoga, following the success of Student United Way (SUW) at the college level.
“Our goal is for students to be more aware of issues affecting their communities and start to contribute at a young age to build a better community,” Flanagan said.
As the club’s local United Way adviser, Flanagan provides advice and guidance in connecting members of ’Stoga’s SUW to the community. Flanagan said that although United Way’s collaboration with high schools is only in its preliminary stages, the organization has high hopes for the future of high school United Way clubs.
“We have had much success on the campuses of colleges and universities and hope to expand our reach into high schools too,” Flanagan said.
Patrick Gately said he is proud to sponsor such a worthy cause.
“The [club] is just beginning to reach out to high schools, and I am proud that Conestoga is leading the way,” he said.
Flanagan said that she would like to see the club establish more long-term relationships with local organizations in addition to the on-going relationship the club is building with Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center.
“Ultimately, the goal is to create positive change and make lasting community impact through giving, advocating and volunteering,” Flanagan said.