This Class Collected Thousands Of Cans To Feed The Homeless

Last fall, Ms. Branche's class at Albemarle High School collected 2,100 cans for the local food bank.

Courtesy of Albemarle High School

This story is part of our Choices Changemakers series, where each month we spotlight teens doing amazing things in their schools and communities!

When it comes to inspiring her class to give back, Colleen Branche has two rules: Make it relevant, and have fun with it. It's that attitude that helped the Virginia math teacher's homeroom take first place in Albemarle High School's annual food drive last year. Branche's class collected 2,100 cans of food to donate to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and the school collected more than 7,300 cans total!

To open students' eyes to the impact they could create, Branche shared an anecdote from a fellow teacher: One day after school, a student came in for extra help. It happened to be the same day as parent-teacher conferences, so there was pizza available for all of the teachers. As soon as the student saw the pizza, his eyes grew wide. When he was offered some, the student cut a slice in half. When asked why, he explained, "We never get to eat pizza at home, and my little brother would love to taste it."

Branche says the story broke her heart, and proved that some students in her school don't have the same access to food as their peers. "You don't know what the friend next to you is going through," she tells her students. "You don't know if their parents lost their jobs. You may be helping someone you don't know. But at the end of the day, you're helping people who live in your community or your school."

So when it came to the food drive, Branche opted to have real discussions with the kids about ways they can make a difference, instead of offering extra credit for students who brought in cans (she believes students should give "from the goodness of their hearts"). Over the course of the last school year, she said her students became invested in the food drive not merely for the sake of bragging rights, but because they knew they were making an impact.

Students would even bring spare change from lunch to buy more cans. Branche says all of her class's hard work was worth it.

We laughed, we cried, we made it fun. At the end of the day, we were proud of ourselves that we were able to do something amazing in our own community... I'm very proud of my students. They went above and beyond.

While they may have big shoes to fill, her new class is already on a mission to create just as big of an impact. And no matter what, every can helps!

For more Changemakers, read about Isaac, who held a backpack drive, and Trisha, who stopped cyberbullying at the source. After feeling inspired, be sure to join this month's Choices Challenge!