SNOWBALL Dance - A Model for Successby Virginia Wallace
SNOWBALL Dance - A Model for Success
For the past thirteen years, on the last cold night of January, over a thousand parents, alumni, clergy, administrators and corporate and individual supporters of Catholic education have braved all manner of weather to attend the Making a Difference Dinner. The dinner is a celebration to honor the champions who serve our students and an opportunity to raise much needed funds for the BISON Children's Scholarship Fund which provides tuition assistance for children from low income families to attend Catholic schools.
For the same length of time, the children of these supporters, many our students, have watched their parents dress and depart for this special night of nostalgia, renewal and camaraderie. Intentionally or not, these parents were modeling a behavior of stewardship for their children.
The Making a Difference Dinner is held during Catholic schools week; the last week of January, when Catholic schools celebrate Catholic education. Two years ago, some of the same parents who annually attend the dinner decided to create an event that would encourage their children, 7th and 8th grade students at our Catholic school, to share the mission of the dinner and in their own way, "make a difference" in the lives of those seeking a Catholic education. Thus, the SNOWBALL Dance was created.
The initial SNOWBALL was held in the Ministry Center of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Williamsville; it was a collaboration of 8 schools in the northtowns, had an attendance of 500 students and raised $13,000. In year two the dance expanded in two ways, twelve schools participated and 5th & 6th grade students were invited to have their own dance prior to the 7th & 8th grade dance. That year the attendance was 650 and approximately $20,000 was raised to support tuition assistance.
This year, an official website snowballdance.com was created and Nativity of Our Lord School joined to host a dance for students from the southtowns. In all, coordinators expect approximately 1500 students from nearly 25 schools to take part in this year's festivities.
Collaboration is the name of the game with the SNOWBALL Dances. There is great support from parents, but assistance from local Catholic high schools is also utilized to help manage social media, act as chaperones, and handle logistics, including check-in, kitchen, dance floor, and traffic and safety patrol.
According to founding parent Jean Comer, the task that brings the most satisfaction and gratification to the high school students is providing what are called Mission Moments for the elementary school student. Beginning in early January, the high school students travel to the elementary schools for assemblies where the younger students hear real stories of families who have received scholarship assistance from the BISON Fund and the impact it had on their family. According to Comer, the students "listen more attentively when it (the message) comes from a 17 year old."
It is evident that there are many positive outcomes from the SNOWBALLs. The elementary students who attend the SNOWBALLs are not just going to a party. They understand the reason for the dance and gain insight into and appreciation of the struggles families in their town and neighborhood face in their lives.
The dance provides the high school volunteers reinforcement of the idea of service to others and a chance to have greater interaction with and understanding of elementary school students.
The parents, who so often concentrate on their own individual school, work collaboratively with other parents and teenagers from many other schools to promote, execute and host two large events back to back in two locations in one night.
But the greatest success of the SNOWBALLs may be that they are a model for how our elementary schools can successfully navigate the current revitalization process. They confirm the belief that if we, all those who support Catholic education, are willing to unite, collaborate and focus on a singular goal- that of creating stronger, more vibrant, sustainable elementary schools -we will be successful.