Student fundraiser helps impoverished children

Published 9:26 pm Thursday, March 2, 2017

Suffolk high school students are helping both their neighbors and others around the world through the Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

Nansemond River High School AFJROTC cadets engage in community service locally and raise money for organizations helping those in need worldwide. Their biggest fundraiser of the year will support the efforts of the H20 Project, an international organization that brings attention to the need for clean water.

“I’m trying to build a habit in them to do well for others,” senior aerospace science instructor and retired Lt. Col. David Hedger said.

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The fundraiser will help build water stations and bathrooms for a children’s primary school in Guatemala. Outdoor bathrooms of concrete cinder blocks and steel doors will be replaced with more hospitable conditions. The village children will no longer need plastic tubs to wash their hands.

“They’ll never meet them in their lifetime, but they’ll definitely know they contributed to make their lives better,” Hedger said.

The 130 AFJROTC cadets have raised $1,140 towards their $1,500 goal so far. Hedger said he hopes to reach $2,000 by the end of March.

Nansemond River Spanish classes have partnered with the cadets by selling healthy snacks at the school, with all profits going towards the fundraiser. The cadets support at least a dozen community service events throughout the year, including blood drives and canned food drives.

“Part of our goals in the ROTC is to produce citizens,” Hedger said. “They’re learning self-discipline but also to help other people when they can. We give them opportunities to do that.”

Each cadet may volunteer $5 of their own money. Hedger said that this money had to be earned, such as through household chores or a part-time job. These contributions will count towards their required community service hours.

He calls it “sweat equity.”

“I want a little bit of skin in the game for them,” he said. “They’re not just asking for money. They’re earning it.”

Nansemond River freshman cadet Jalena Bails said she wants to give these Guatemalan children clean running water. This opportunity for providing aid is one of the reasons she joined the AFJROTC.

“I joined for the discipline, and I like being able to help others,” she said.

Donations are being accepted until March 30. To help the students reach their fundraising goal, go online at