NGHS Relay for Life chapter looks for new goal

SUWANEE -- The strategy to raise $75,000 in a high school is to make the cause part of the everyday culture.

That's what teachers and students said they're doing at North Gwinnett High School as they look to top last year's figure raised for Relay for Life. This year, their target is $100,000.

They do it by things like "Morp," which is a dance that was held on Friday featuring neon clothes and spirit wear, and a more relaxed atmosphere than prom, which is "morp" spelled backward.

Co-captain Holly Smith, a geography and history teacher, said the chapter hopes to bring in $10,000 from the Morp dance alone. Team members sold neon shirts, and made a rap music video to promote the event.

"Making service leadership a cool thing to do for high schoolers is really how we've gotten a big buy in," said Smith, who has been involved for five years.

Senior Gabbi Maldonado said one key to reaching the six-figure goal is to involve the community outside of the school.

"If you look around, you have kids selling at every (lunch) table," she said. "Everyday you hear about it, and have somebody trying to sell you something, or get you to join."

Senior Nathan Brooks said since prom is a junior and senior event, the Relay for Life chapter made Morp open to all grades to encourage turnout.

Co-captains along with Smith are Colette Armstrong and McCall Grosso, both language arts teachers at the high school.

The key to reach the new goal is that each of the 250 team members raise at least $150 individually, Smith said. Smith and Grosso each have raised more than $2,000, and Smith said her strategy is strictly emailing friends and family.

Brooks said since the co-captains are each involved with other clubs around the school, from student council to cheerleading, events are easier to come by and more popular, and not labeled as "Relay for Life."

While baked goods and bracelets are common ways students raise money, Smith said events like Morp and a Miss Suwanee pageant bring in five figures. The Miss Suwanee pageant raised about $11,000 last year for the North team.

This year's Miss Suwanee is on April 27 at the high school.

Because it's intertwined among everyday activities, Armstrong said the chapter benefits from other clubs and groups at the school.

"Every club is doing some type of fundraiser and raising $500, $1,000, and just handing it over to us," Armstrong said. One example is the yearbook staff. It had $5,000 remaining in its budget last year, and donated it to Relay for Life after the student body voted to dedicate the yearbook for the chapter.

The group hopes to build momentum for the May 4 event at Gwinnett County Fairgrounds. It has raised about $25,000. The fundraising cycle ends in August.

For more information, visit relayforlife.org or misssuwanee.com.