It all started with an experiment. Last October, the 6th graders at Marymount of Santa Barbara took a pledge to try and live off of $1.50 a day. The challenge was in honor of UN World Food Day, which was created in 1945 to highlight food scarcity and the dire nature of the world poverty line.
“Over 1.1 billion people live off a dollar or less a day,” said 6th grade teacher Kate Burris last week as she reflected on the experience. “The kids were all game to try it. They prepped. They donated their lunches. But by 10 o’clock they were crashing. We all collectively fell apart.”
With the realities of hunger laid before them, Burris’ students started digging around for ways to help. Together, they discovered that one in four people in Santa Barbara County are food insecure. “We all hear the numbers, but it’s actually happening right here,” said Burris. “It’s people we see every day, and we don’t realize it.”
After some careful deliberation, the students decided to throw their collective weight behind the Casa Esperanza homeless shelter, and the fundraising efforts began. Working individually and together, they erected lemonade stands, held plant sales, took pledges for basketball hoop-a-thons, even hosted a chili cook-off — and raised over $4,800 in the process.
“The momentum has been building all year,” said Burris. “Now they want to go out with a bang.”
That grand finale comes this Tuesday, May 20, at SOhO, when Marymount’s 6th graders hold Rock the Casa. The evening-length benefit concert will feature a headlining set by Diamond Dave Somerville of The Diamonds, who also happens to be the grandfather of 6th grader Chae Somerville. Also on the bill are Marymount teacher Matt Kustura and 7th grade rockers Stolen Thunder. It’s the students’ hope that the concert will bring in enough money to allow Casa Esperanza to hire a new part-time employee.
“There are so many things about this that have been so rewarding on so many levels,” said Burris. “In the past year, I’ve seen a whole shift in their mindset and the way they look at the world. It’s changed their whole thought process. And the whole school has been moved by it; the example that these kids are leading by is inspiring. It’s ultimately the reason why I’m an educator.”
Marymount’s 6th grade class hosts Rock the Casa, a benefit for Casa Esperanza at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Tuesday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m. For info and tickets, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com. To donate, visit casaesperanza.org.