From Passion to Action

Overview of Troy High School’s Activist Week.
From Passion to Action
History of Troy High School’s Activist Week
Photo courtesy of Student Government

Activist Week has changed many times over the course of its existence. There are always changes and improvements being made every year. In recent years, Activist Week has had many events that help raise money and funding for one particular charity. Students in the Troy High School community make sure to be actively engaged with the organization they are trying to fund and advocate for. However, Activist Week was not always like this. Due to improvements, it has evolved and changed into something bigger compared to what it was 10 years ago.

Each year, Troy High School’s Student Government runs and plans Activist Week. Ryan Werenka, a history teacher at Troy High School, was formerly the Student Government Advisor who ran and started Activist Week back in 2012. The idea began as an outlet for students in Troy High School to help their community by doing small projects that didn’t directly involve money, spreading the message to students that they can make a difference and help others in many ways. 

Werenka describes the early purpose of Activist Week, “In the beginning, it was mainly about action and collection in items or a production of items. Early Activist Week, there was no money raised because the other school across town Troy Athens High School runs a really good Charity Week; for them, it’s a big thing in dollar amount. Our idea was never about dollars, at least early on. It was more how you can commit acts without money.”

Early Activist Week first started off as a variety of small service projects or events that students could choose to participate in, including canned food and fleece blanket drives. These small events were the foundations of Activist Week and were meant to bring awareness toward certain things or help out the community.

The purpose of starting Activist Week at Troy High School was to give students the opportunity to help others and teach them the importance of advocating issues.  Werenka states, “Activism is going beyond yourself by doing things for others. We all have the capacity to help people and do things for our community. Sometimes people don’t know how to do it. If you give people that little gentle nudge, then they’re willing to do things.”   

Recently, Troy High School has started to focus on one given charity and help raise money for it. Not only is money being raised, but a partnership is also being made. Students in Troy High School try to become active members of their community and interact with the charity as much as they can.

Melissa Nita, one of Troy High School’s Student Government Advisors, explains the current goal for Activist Week. “Our goal for Activist Week [is] not only to raise money, but to also become an active member in helping out the organization. We always try to get students involved rather than just donating money.”

However, Troy High School did not start raising funds for organizations until 2019, which was considered a huge change for the event. This change occurred when there was a high demand from students to start raising money. 

Meghan Riddock, one of Troy High School’s Student Government Advisors, stated that, “Students wanted to raise money and the community wanted to donate money. We did not want to lose the legacy Werenka started.”

For the future, Student Government Advisors are looking into having the student body vote on what charity they should support and advocate for. Having more student input and opinion can make events more enjoyable. 

Activist Week has changed tremendously by adding charity aspects.  It’s improved through the creation and change of different events that aim to raise and advocate for the chosen charity. Even with all the changes, it maintains the same purpose and message, of advocating for issues around the Troy Community.

How Student Government Plans for Activist Week
Photo courtesy of Student Government

Activist Week takes a lot of extensive planning and student involvement. Students involved in Student Government are expected to take part in at least one committee and be involved in event planning and spirit week.

Activist Week starts long before Troy High School students see it. The planning process is a long and tedious one that starts right after Homecoming. 

Planning starts with brainstorming within the Leadership classes, then once a new event is decided upon students must consider the logistics of the event and what the opportunities for fundraising would be.

After deciding what events will be a part of Activist Week, newer events created have to be approved by administrators before further planning. 

An example of a new event that had to go through the planning process and be approved by administration is Splash Bash. Avery Gaydash, a committee member for the new Splash Bash event, states the event was inspired by Troy Athens High School’s belly flop competition. They made a few changes to the original idea, starting off with the concept of a belly flop competition and morphing it into a competition to see who could make the biggest splash. Then the committee had to get their new Splash Bash event approved by administration. 

Similarly, for the new Bingo event, McManus states, “We have to run it by admin and a couple of our advisors, Mrs. Nita and Mrs. Riddock, to make sure they are okay with us planning the event. For Bingo Night, we actually need to run it by the state, because it’s technically gambling, so we have to make sure it’s licensed.” 

Once events are approved and put into motion, students get ready by planning out what they need to do for each event during the week. 

McManus said, “During [Activist] Week, it is really day of and logistics work; like during Coin Stall, we count the coins to give back to the bank, and during Bingo Night, we will be passing out cards and stuff like that to make sure everyone is having a good time and everyone gets the chance to participate in everything they can.” 

Student Government members are very excited about the upcoming events and Activist Week as a whole. Some of their goals include generating further student involvement, forming a strong and positive bond with On My Own, making sure students have fun and beating the amount of money they raised last year.

About On My Own
Photo courtesy of On My Own

Each year, Troy High School’s Student Government chooses a charity to support as a part of the school’s Activist Week. This year, after two charities reached out to the school’s Student Government, a vote was held within the Leadership classes. The chosen charity was On My Own of Michigan. 

On My Own, as described by the non-profit’s Director of Education, Emily Lourim, is an organization that “supports individuals with developmental disabilities to help gain and maintain some independent living.”

On My Own works towards a couple of goals, including helping to prepare high school students with developmental disabilities to live independently in the future and aiding in maintaining independence for those who have been a part of the organization for many years. 

Lourim is an important component of On My Own as an organization as well as a connection to Troy High School. Lourim is a former Troy High School student who graduated in 2017. Her time at Troy High School was one of the reasons that On My Own reached out, with Lourim stating, “I knew about Troy High Charity Week efforts, and at On My Own, we are always fundraising and seeking out grant opportunities to help enhance our programs and make them accessible.”

Lourim currently runs all of the organization’s educational programs. When asked what their programs entail, Lourim stated, “I run our Family Consulting Program, which provides families with information about independent living options in the community and resources to help them get there. I also run our Independence Prep Program, which is our quarterly, overnight, independent living experience for teens and young adults with mental disabilities, where we give them a taste of independent living. As a part of that program, we also have a summer day camp, which we run during the summer to work on independent living skills. I also run our Independence College program, which is our two-year program for individuals with developmental disabilities. It is a residential college experience designed to improve their independent living and vocational skills.”

As On My Own and Lourim move towards Activist Week, their goal is to “be involved in the community, and get involved with Troy High and really create a strong partnership.”

Lourim states that what they ultimately want students to take away from Troy High School’s partnership with On My Own is “that oftentimes individuals with developmental disabilities don’t have an opportunity to attend college or to live independently after college, and we really aim to make that possible to this community.”

Programs like On My Own allow for people with developmental disabilities to be a part of society in a way that they weren’t traditionally able to. On My Own is focused on the future for young adults and teens who are beginning to integrate into a more independent lifestyle. 

It’s important that everyone has the ability to excel in their lives, and On My Own is providing opportunities to people who may not have had them before.

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About the Contributors
Ainsley Giorio
Ainsley Giorio, Lead Public Relations Editor
Ainsley Giorio is a senior and is excited for her third and FINAL year on The Chariot! Ainsley is the Lead Public Relations Editor, where she co-manages a very famous and viral social media platform. Outside of writing for the Chariot, Ainsley enjoys running (SHOCKING), watching reality TV (especially Dance Mom's), and baking (though she's not very good at it).
Bushra Mohammed
Bushra Mohammed, Graphics Editor
Bushra Mohammed is a junior at Troy High School and is a first year Graphics Editor at The Chariot. She joined The Chariot because she enjoys reading and writing news articles. She wants to meet new people in the Troy High School community and receive more high school opportunities. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, embroidering random things in her house, watching movies/tv shows, hanging out with friends, and annoying her sisters.
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