Students Raise $10K in One Day for 9/11 Memorial
By Jacob Mathias
The Plover 9/11 Memorial will see some upgrades at almost no cost to the village, thanks to a group of students from Ben Franklin Junior High.
Over the course of the summer, students in the 9/11 Memorial Restoration Group, lead by mentors Art Greco and Brandi Makuski, organized a fundraiser to raise the $10,000 needed to repair the memorial. Students ranged in age from 12 to 14 when the group first formed in April.
Students present for Wednesday’s media event included Justice Chukwuemeka, Remington Wisinski, Sarah Adams, Matthew Barton and Katie-Grace Embertson.
As the first generation born after the national tragedy of 9/11, the group had a unique opportunity.
“It was about honoring people in the correct way,” said Wisinski. “We learned everything from textbooks. It’s different for us than it is for older people.”
Greco and Makuski formed the group after learning village leaders initially planned to repair the memorial using money previously earmarked for roadway repair. The funds raised by the students will now offset the village’s expenses.
“When you take some young people and give them right tools and you put them in an uncomfortable situation, they just rise to the challenge,” said Makuski. “The community really responded to that.”
Greco said the fundraiser was only the end result of the group’s time together. Students have spent months stepping out of their respective comfort zones and to interact with business professionals, elected officials and the general public to organize and promote their fundraiser.
“They really had to earn their place in this group,” Greco said. “This wasn’t a group of adults who did all the work and the kids getting all the credit — it was the students who did this, using the tools they were given.”
More than 20 students initially applied to join the group, Greco said, but only 16 were accepted. About a dozen students remain active with the group, he added.
To join the group, Greco said students were required to submit an application, resume and 500-word essay, then undergo a formal interview.
Students were taught business acumen, professional dress and communication, basic accounting and “soft skills” local employers often say young people lack, Makuski said.
“We had to learn how to be good leaders, how to deal with money and how to fund-raise,” said Embertson. “It was a great opportunity to learn more things than we would inside of school and give us a little more real life experience.”
The students raised the money in just one day — the day their donation drive kicked off at Celebrate Plover on July 29.
“To literally, in one day, raise $10,000,” said Village of Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney. “That’s incredible — and it’s a testament to their hard work and their effort.”
The memorial consists of a pedestal displaying a portion of an iron girder cut from the debris of the Twin Towers in New York City.
The black and red bricks surrounding the memorial represent police and firefighters who died Sept. 11, 2001.
“We have all kinds of memorials around for the military, but you don’t see a whole lot of memorials to first responders, fire, EMS or police,” said Lt. Ryan Fox from the Plover Police Dept. Fox was instrumental in bringing the piece of beam to Plover, which was first dedicated in 2011.
“People come and visit this memorial every day,” Fox added.
“This represents the very best values of being an American,” Plover Police Chief Dan Ault said of the monument. “It represents the most significant values of sacrifice. I think the funds that were raised by these kids in a day…it represents the very best in our community.”
The memorial pedestal and benches are currently made of polished concrete, a material that has not withstood time or elements, Mahoney said, and will be replaced with granite.
Mahoney said that granite has been slow to arrive, but he hopes the repairs will be complete in time for a rededication of the memorial on Sept. 11, 2017.
The Plover 9/11 Memorial is located in front of the Plover Village Hall at 2400 Post Road.
To donate to the group, send a check to: Ben Franklin Jr. High School Dept. of Business & Information Technology Education, c/o World of Business, 2000 Polk St., Stevens Point, Wis. 54481. Write “9/11 Memorial” in the memo line.