A group of eight Democracy Prep Harlem Middle School (DPHMS) scholars have spent the last three years fundraising for their friend Jayden, a fellow DPHMS scholar who suffered an anoxic brain injury after a severe asthma attack.
“We wanted to do something for him,” said Henry Perez. “We wanted to help him get the treatment he needed, so we started putting things together and raising money.”
7th grader Affoussiata Dosso and 8th graders De’Mari Ellis, Nichole Valdez, Nazarata Ugiagb, Denzel Pierre, Henry Perez, Sara Neequaye, and Barbie Quinones have raised nearly $1000 for Jayden’s medical treatment. They have raised $690 this year alone.
“Jayden means a lot to me,” said Nazarata Ugiagb. “When [the injury] happened, it really made me sad. I’d never been close to a person that something really bad happens to. It really opened my eyes to what life is.”
Three years ago, they organized a school-wide coin drive that raised more than $300. Every class had a bowl to collect coins, dollars, and money orders.
Earlier this year, the scholars held a bake sale that raised nearly $300. They sold popcorn, candy, cookies, and chips.
“Even though he is not physically with us, we still think about him everyday,” said Barbie Quinones. “So no matter what, we are going to keep supporting him. This cause not only helps his family, but also him because he knows he has supporters with him no matter what.”
Half of the bake sale proceeds went to Jayden’s medical treatment, and the other half covered expenses for their upcoming event– a student fashion show and basketball tournament. They have been planning the event since September 2017.
“At first, we just wanted to plan something big for him to raise a lot of money for his treatment,” Nazarata Ugiagb said. “Then we all had the idea to do a fashion show and a basketball tournament because everybody in our school really loves basketball.”
On Friday, May 25, 2018, the scholars will host a fashion show during each grade-level town hall. After school, the scholars have organized a basketball tournament, in which students and teachers will participate. Jayden will attend the game.
“It wouldn’t be right for us to forget about him just because he went to the hospital,” Sara Neequayem said. “We should be carrying him with us even though we’re getting older. I want people to realize that Jayden was just like one of us. But unfortunately, he had to go through this.” She added, “Anything could happen at any time.”
For the scholars, the event is also about raising awareness about anoxic brain injuries.
“This is my first time learning about an anoxic brain injury or any brain injuries in general,” De’Mari Ellis said. “I think we should talk about it more because it’s not just Jayden, other people have these injuries as well. If no one else is supporting the cause, we have to do something.”
Mrs. Moran-Richards, the group’s mentor, is proud of how the scholars have demonstrated a long-term commitment to their classmate.
“They’ve wanted to do it,” said Mrs. Moran-Richards. “They’ve had the ideas. Yes, I’ve helped with logistics but they created the t-shirts. They thought of the raffle prizes. They’re taking real ownership of this.” She added, “They’ve stayed in his life the whole time. They did actually change someone’s world, and maybe other people’s too.”
The basketball tournament begins at 1:45PM in the DPHMS gym.