Students collaborate to ‘Raise South Sudan’

by Tori Hamby

West Mecklenburg High School has teamed up with Northwest School the Arts, Hough High and about a dozen other schools throughout Charlotte and Atlanta to build a school in South Sudan. Students De’Onna Banks (left) and Ashley Cuomo decorated the school’s spirit rock to advertise the fundraiser. (Courtesy of Ashley Cuomo)

Local high school students are working toward making education more accessible for children living in the fledgling country of South Sudan.

West Mecklenburg High School is teaming up with Hough High School in Cornelius and Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte to help Mothering Across Continents, a nonprofit that organizes support projects in developing countries, raise the $40,000 needed to build a school in the Republic South Sudan, which attained independence last summer. Students hope to achieve their goal by the end of the school year through a variety of fundraising events.

“We thought of how cool it would be to have our names on the outside of a school in South Sudan,” said Ashley Cuomo, West Mecklenburg High School student body president. “It’s a big undertaking, but we’re working with other schools who are also very dedicated to the project.”

The project began earlier this year when Mothering Across Continents gave a presentation about South Sudan and the lack of educational opportunities for children to Carl Hamm’s leadership class. About 30,000 South Sudanese boys were displaced during the Second Sudanese Civil War between 1984 and 2005. The “Lost Boys of Sudan” who were not kidnapped and forced to serve as child soldiers fled to refugee camps. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of the population cannot read or write.

Since the project’s beginnings, students at West Mecklenburg and Hough high schools have worked closely together to develop a wide variety of fundraisiser. Students at West Mecklenburg have sold T-shirts and window decals and hosted a bake sale fundraiser at a March 27 baseball game against East Gaston High School. A Lost Boy of Sudan was also on hand at the game to talk to people about his experiences growing up in the war-torn region.

“This is the first fundraiser of its kind in (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools),” Hamm said. “There’s never been this big of a collaborative effort to raise such a large amount of money.”

Students, such as Ashley, who wanted to do more outside of school to help the cause also volunteered with Mothering Across Continents to organize a Students Supporting South Sudan benefit concert, featuring Sudanese rapper Emmanuel Jal, at Amos’ Southend. So far the West Mecklenburg High School fundraising cluster has raised about $4,000 to $5,000, said Elizabeth Peacock, education program manager with Mothering Across Continents.

“They’ve had a chance to sort of bond together and to attend and support each other’s fundraising activities,” Peacock said.

For more information about Mothering Across Continents or South Sudan, go online to

Want to help?

To help West Mecklenburg High School meet its fundraising goal, call the school at 980-343-6080.

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