WILSON – Finding a caring student at Wilson High School appears to be the norm rather than the exception.
Two ongoing projects are taking special care to help soldiers and their families.
For one student, whose father was deployed to Afghanistan four years ago, the memories are still vivid of how he felt when he was 13. Dominic Curcione, 17, a junior, said it’s now his turn to help other youths who are going through the same feelings of fear and loneliness.
Dominic said his father, Paul Curcione, currently in the Air Force Reserve, was in the Marine Corps when he was deployed. Dominic said he struggled when his dad left but was fortunate to have received a grant from Our Military Kids.
“The grant was to get me out of my house. At home, I was just sitting in my house all day, doing nothing. I was sad about my father being gone,” he said. “My family’s kind of close-knit, so what affects one affects all of us.”
He said he used the money to take tae kwon do classes, something he said that helped him through a tough time and that he continues today.
“It really helped me to interact with people,” he said. “I wanted to repay the organization. I want all the kids to have the same experience I did.”
After attending several leadership camps, Dominic said, he came up with a three-phase plan that included setting up a website, getting the word out by knocking on doors and putting flags in people’s yards, and Nov. 1 he held a bake sale – with a little help from a head baker, also known as his mom, Holly, who made red velvet cake served in cups, which Dominic frosted and sold at school for 50 cents. He said he raised $200 and plans to continue fundraising.
“I thought what Dom did single-handedly was awesome,” said Deborah Sweeney, a family and consumer science teacher at Wilson for the last 31 years. “He is teaching kids to be active citizens and how important it is to be leaders.”
She said it is amazing how people in Wilson step up.
Special-education teacher’s aide Janet Durham, who has been with the district for 24 years, said she knew she could turn to the students when she, or actually her 7-year-old grandson, Caleb, discovered Lockport’s United Stockings for Sailors and Soldiers.
Durham’s son, Army Capt. Joshua Durham, 29, is a Special Operations helicopter pilot, flying secret missions in Afghanistan. He is also a graduate of Wilson High School.
“I was with my grandson at the Krull Park playground in Olcott, and he saw this lady working on stockings, and he asked about them and asked if he could have one for his uncle,” Durham said.
The whole family ended up making 20, Durham said, and now she is a regular volunteer with the Lockport group, which has been making stockings that are filled with food, games, toiletries, and cards and letters.
In Lockport, Durham said, they have a goal of 7,000, but in Wilson, the goal is a bit more modest.
“All these stockings are going to go to him, and he’s going to distribute them directly to his men,” Durham said. “He needs 200.”
Sweeney said that one of her classes is cutting, sewing, decorating and filling the stockings. The students also are including a special sticker on the back of each one that reminds them that they were made by students at Wilson Central School.
Wilson High students also have been collecting money for postage, gathering items to fill the stockings, and middle school students are writing Christmas cards and letters for the stockings. Collection boxes were placed at Thomas Marks Elementary School.
“They’ve done an amazing job, I am so proud of these kids,” said Durham, pointing to the decorated stockings, collection baskets and donation jars, which she said the students in Sweeney’s class did all by themselves. “This is a fantastic group of kids sitting right here,” she said pointing to members of the Students in a Safe Child’s World Class: Brittany Burdette, Maria Giambra, Bonnie Milczarski, Mariah Miller, Kallie Olear, Lauren Phillips, Alyssa Rupple and Morgan Susice.
Morgan, 17, said she brought a donation jar to her work at Subway in Lewiston and raised $70.
“I hope they are happy and feel loved and know we appreciate what they do for us,” she said of the soldiers.
Kallie, 15, said she has been enjoying decorating the stockings and including her favorite items.
“I am a Christmas freak,” she said. “I love it all. I always think of the little things that matter to me – hot chocolate in the wintertime and candles, so that’s what I like to put on the stockings.”
“He is so excited,” Durham said of her son Joshua. “He can’t believe it. He can say these came from my school where I graduated.”
“We are trying to teach our kids that being an active citizen feels good,” Sweeney said. “It’s just so important. It feels like fewer and fewer people are helping out, at church at school, the Lions Club. We’ve just lost that volunteer base.”
But not at Wilson, said Dominic.
“The first class I went to” – to get volunteers for the bake sale – “everybody signed up,” he said.
“Whether they knew him or not,” Sweeney noted.