On March 7th, National Cereal Day, at 10 a.m. on the dot, the students of the Sparta Montessori School started filing into the gymnasium, where they eagerly molded themselves around 602 boxes of cereal that were lined up in a swervy-curvy pattern, on the gym floor. Set up like dominoes, the cereal boxes were a weeks-long effort, by students and staff, to supply the Sparta School District Backpack Program, as well as the Ecumenical Food Pantry, with as many boxes of cereal as they could.
On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, the “Share the Love Cereal Drive” was throttled into gear. With 183 students and 28 staff members on board, the push was on to reach the effort’s goal of 500 boxes. When the cereal dust settled, a total of 602 boxes, of all sizes and flavors, were stacked up, in the front hall of the school.
Doctor Wendy Bernett, principal of the Sparta Montessori School, would remind the students each day, of the impending domino show, creating hype and a strong buzz amongst the school body. As the pupils entered the gym, it was clear that Principal Bernett’s tactics had worked. The decibel level reached a fever pitch in seconds flat. It was an orderly chaos, as students sat, occasionally pointing at the focal point of Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and many others.
Connie Jerome stepped in as emcee for the grand event. With her right hand raised, the anxious youth understood that silence was in order. She thanked them for their cooperation, and then reiterated that the goal of 500 boxes had been met. Jerome introduced Lori Ascher and Judy Bernett, from the Ecumenical Food Pantry, and Mary Nowaczyk, from the Sparta School District Backpack Program. These women were part of the cereal pipeline, acting as go-between for the efforts on both sides of the humanitarian effort.
Once Connie Jerome issued the query, “Are you ready?” the place erupted like an eager volcano. A flick of the wrist set the long-awaited action into motion. Clapping, cheering and outright cries of jubilation joined hands and danced through the air of academia. Some students clasped their hands close to their chins, as they marveled at the anticipatory continuation of the movement.
The sneaky-snake feat was well underway, when a hiccup occurred in the fifth turn. Without missing a beat, a teacher sprung to her feet, like a cheetah stepping on a hot rock, and tapped the stubborn box. The gasps and feelings of sadness that it could all be over recycled themselves into even louder cheering and more ferocious clapping, as the heroic achievement was once again, within reach.
As the eighth turn progressed down the line, the increase in excitement was noticeable. The energy was palpable, as the last tiny circle of a dozen boxes was reached. Once more into the breach proved a tall ask, as a box of Fruit Loops just wasn’t having it. Connie Jerome stepped in this time. Jerome, seemingly unphased by the premature pause, and the attempt at thwarting the air of accomplishment, simply tapped the Loops, and brought the house down with the finality of the final box tipping over.
The students carried that accomplishment and joy with them, as they headed back to their classrooms. The boxes were picked up, put on carts and distributed to their proper groupings. Judy Burnett, Lori Ascher and Mary Nowacyzk joined in the effort, along with students and staff. Connie Jerome, sure to go down in legend and lore, said that this may have inspired a similar drive, for next year.
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