Photos courtesy of Cleburne High School.
Near the start of the school year, Cleburne (Texas) High School’s lead SkillsUSA advisor and law enforcement teacher Nathan VanRyn met with Vanessa Buttler (lead advisor for the school’s Future Educators of America chapter) to discuss a joint fundraiser. With the input of their students, the group chose to build a fall festival for local children and families that they dubbed a “Spooktacular.”
The students decided to use the school’s indoor practice facility and the outside student parking lot, set the date and began reaching out to the community for donations. “It all really came together very quickly,” says VanRyn. “We had so much enthusiasm from everywhere that it pulled together quicker and easier than we expected it would.”
On Oct. 27, the day of the festival, students and teachers prepared a “trunk-or-treat,” with about 30 vehicle trunks decorated for trick-or-treating. A wide variety of Halloween-themed games for kids were also offered, including one that raised a few eyebrows (in a good way).
“One of the more popular activities was a big cardboard sensory game with a face and giant nostrils,” says VanRyn. “It was a container filled with spaghetti and green jello, and kids would reach into the nose to grab prizes that were shaped as human organs and then the students explained the function of each organ. It was fun to watch and educational, too!”
All the activities were free, but the students sold cotton candy, popcorn, caramel apples and nachos. A silent auction featured donated items from local businesses, including a SkillsUSA-themed basket, a taffy basket, fishing supplies and an electric toothbrush.
“The Spooktacular was a great experience for me, and it really felt good to give the kids of our community a safe place to have fun and trick or treat,” says SkillsUSA president and senior Caylee Garver. SkillsUSA historian and freshman Alaina Lamer chimed in, “As a new member of my school’s SkillsUSA group, being involved with the Spooktacular has ignited my passion for community service and SkillsUSA.” The festival helped the two groups raise a total of $4,000. “This year, we started a CTE/CTSO $1,000 scholarship that can be used for any postsecondary school, including a technical school, with the rest being used for career and technical student organization CTSO student activities,” says VanRyn. “Next year, we hope to make enough for two scholarships.”