RAYTOWN, Mo. -- A group of Raytown High School students are focused on one thing: helping their community thrive.
The school's leadership club, known as "Jay Crew," is taking part in a nationwide challenge called Lead2Feed. About 5,000 schools in all 50 states take part.
Raytown High School is the only certified Lead2Feed school in the state of Missouri and has a history of high placement. The school has placed in the top 10 for two years in a row. Raytown is also the only school in the state of Missouri to make the top 15 cut the past two years.
"When people think of Raytown, sometimes it seems as if we have this bad reputation just because of things they hear," student Ligia Valencia said. "We're not just Raytown. We're actually more powerful than people realize."
Valencia is the president of the student council and has been taking part in the Lead2Feed initiative for three years now. She said the organization has changed her life for the better.
"My freshman, sophomore year, I didn't want to be involved," Valencia said. "I was really shy and didn't want to speak. And now I'm over here giving presentations to the mayor and principals, and I didn't think that I would dream of doing (that)."
Fundraising starts at the beginning of the academic school year. Under Jay Crew leadership, the district as a whole is focused on raising money and collecting goods for the Raytown Emergency Assistance Program, also known as REAP, which provides food and services to help families get back on their feet.
"The students work hard," teacher and Jay Crew sponsor Josh Reichert said.
The proof is in the results.
Three years ago, the high school collected 7,000 food items for REAP. Last year, the school collected 26,000 items. In the two years combined, the school raised more than than $26,000 for the Raytown program.
"If that's not reaching for excellence, then I don't know what is," Reichert said.
"That's a pretty big deal for us," senior Chance Prosser said. "It makes me feel really proud about my school."
This year, Reichert said the goal is to collect 30,000 items and raise at least $10,000.
"It's excellence in the community," Reichert said.
David Novak, a 1977 Raytown High School graduate, started Lead2Feed. He's now the executive chairman of Yum! Brands. He created the competition to encourage high school and middle school students to take initiative in their communities.
If you want to donate food items, the community food drive will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 17 at the HyVee on 350 Highway, the Save-A-Lot on 40 Highway and the Apple Market on 63rd Street and Woodson in Raytown.
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