At Seneca High School, students, faculty and staff refer to one another as family.
And this holiday season, the Seneca Family is continuing the tradition of giving thanks and giving back: organizing food drives to ensure community members have a Thanksgiving meal to enjoy, collecting and sending items to military members both home and abroad, giving thanks to Seneca custodians who help to maintain our school, plus reaching out to teachers to thank them for all that they do.
The season of giving is in full swing.
This year, Seneca’s Student Council collected enough food from faculty, staff, and outside organizations (The Women’s Group of Tabernacle and The Woman’s Club of Medford) to provide Thanksgiving meals and gift cards for 38 families in our community.
“In this crazy time where we feel emotionally and physically exhausted trying to balance our home and profession, please be aware there is SO much goodness surrounding us,” exclaimed Seneca School Counselor and Student Council Advisor Erica Maira. “Today, 38 families received a bountiful boxed food supply, donated turkeys, $50 gift cards and yummy baked goods,” Maira explained with joy and gratitude. “We are all spokes in the wheel that made this come to fruition. Our teacher’s planning center donations, combined with a generous food donation from an outside organization, made this all possible.”
Laura Fair, an English teacher who organized stuffing donations for her planning center, explained: “Each teacher is assigned to a planning center, and planning centers were asked to donate a specific item for the Student Council food drive. Our planning center was assigned stuffing, so I offered to pick some up when I was at BJ’s and everyone just chipped in to pay for it. I think the seven of us ended up donating 32 boxes of stuffing. We’re happy to help,” Fair added. “We want all of our Seneca Family to enjoy Thanksgiving.”
Teachers and staff also helped with distributing the food, which was boxed and organized by Student Council members, then distributed by faculty members. For those families who were unable to pick up at Seneca, Vice Principal Sean Cassel drove from house to house, ensuring they still received their Thanksgiving dinner.
“I would like to thank whoever was so kind to bring our Thanksgiving Basket and drop it on our porch,” wrote one parent, who found a box on her steps. “It was very kind and totally unexpected, and I cannot say thank you enough. We have always been treated with such kindness, caring and respect by everyone at Seneca and we truly do feel like part of a family. Thank you all again so much, we appreciate all you do for our son and our family. Happy Thanksgiving to you and everyone at Seneca!”
This is what it means to be part of the Seneca Family, explained Maira. “We take turns at the helm. This was my turn to steer. The rewards fuel my essence. I’m grateful for my Seneca Family and friends.”
In addition to the Student Council food drive, the Seneca Football team also worked to ensure community members could enjoy a Thanksgiving meal of their own this season, collecting enough food to feed 35 families.
“I would like to thank our Seneca Football Family, especially April Smith, for helping keep one of our traditions going. We collected enough food (every bag had a Turkey and all the sides) to help feed 35 families in our own community,” noted Seneca teacher and Head Football Coach Bill Fisher. “It makes you feel good that 35 families will have a Thanksgiving Day Dinner because of the work done by our players and parents! I love it. I’m a proud coach,” he added.
The Seneca Wrestling Program also worked to give back this season, collecting over 120 pounds of toiletries, essentials, and comfort items to send to our military.
“It all stemmed from a Facebook post,” explained Head Coach Greg Bauer. “We’ve had several kids go into the military from our program, and we’ve always taken pride in supporting our military. Last year we did a military appreciation night with the ROTC – we had singlets designed – and created a night to honor those that dedicate themselves to protecting our freedoms. Inspired, we adopted the motto of ‘valor,’ facing fear and adversity, and had that put on our singlets. It was a success and a high point in our season. That word, valor, binds us and our program, and we wanted to build upon it this year. And then COVID-19 happened. We knew we would create an opportunity to give thanks, but we had to find a new way to do it.”
Bauer continued, “Our Assistant Coach, Bob Columbo, saw a Facebook post from one of our alumni who is overseas this year. It was a quick post asking for those at home to consider sending some items, essentials and comforts from home, that military members could use and would appreciate. Bob texted me and we immediately got to work.”
Seneca wrestlers, their parents, and our ROTC began collecting items: hand wipes, gum, beef jerky, Ramen noodles. “The items began to pile up,” Bauer explained. “All of a sudden, my garage was full of stuff! I took it and mailed it all yesterday – six boxes weighing over 120 pounds. I wanted to ensure they arrived between Veteran’s Day and the holidays, for our military members to know that we’re thankful for their service and the freedoms they protect.”
Students found ways to give thanks in school too.
“Our custodians have been working tirelessly to keep our school clean and safe for our students and staff,” explained Erica Maira, so our Student Council found a way to thank them for the crucial role they play. Students created a bulletin board (filled with notes of thanks) in the hallway, sent emails to all of our custodians, and gifted them mums and baked goods. “Our mantra this year is, ‘what can we do?’” Maira added. This was just one more way students and staff found a way to give back to their Seneca family.
Finally, many teachers and guidance counselors received a moment of gratitude as they began the holiday weekend, emails thanking them for all of their hard work and dedication, for finding ways to make class fun, or for just giving students a moment to look forward to during their school day, be it in-person or remote.
“The assignment was for all of my students to reflect on their school year so far, and to really think about how their teacher, guidance counselor, coach or advisor has helped make the best out of our new school year, explained Business Teacher Kristina Foster. “There were different requirements which reflected each class, but I hope that Seneca staff members that the students chose have a smile on their faces going into Thanksgiving break.”
“I cried!” Laughed Special Education Teacher Amanda Wells, who received an email from one of her English III students. “Sometimes just hearing someone say ‘thank you’ makes it all worth it. We’re lucky to be part of the Seneca Family,” she added, “and Covid and spoil that.”
The tradition of giving back and giving thanks continues at Seneca High School, growing stronger in 2020.
The Lenape Regional High School District’s four high schools – Lenape, Shawnee, Cherokee and Seneca – as well as the Sequoia Alternative Program, educate approximately 6,800 students from eight communities in Burlington County, NJ. The communities served include Evesham, Medford, Medford Lakes, Mount Laurel, Shamong, Southampton, Tabernacle, and
Woodland. The Lenape Regional District is among the highest-achieving districts in the state, with an average graduation rate of 96% and an average combined SAT score of 1144. A leader in progressive education, the LRHSD’s mission is to develop physically and emotionally healthy students who excel in an ever-changing world.