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Annual Fall Festival at South Hill Elementary School doubles as fundraiser


The stairwells of South Hill Elementary School in Ithaca, New York, rang with the sounds of children running and playing on Oct. 28. Outside, the lot was littered with cars parked around the bus circle and people in costume could be seen making their way up the hill from their various parking spots down the neighboring streets. Inside, superheroes raced along the halls alongside witches, vampires and zombies. The annual Fall Festival, a favorite among students and community members alike, had begun.

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The PTA set up activities for children such as coloring. Photo Credit: Natalie Shanklin

Sponsored by the South Hill Parent Teacher Association, the event is a way for the students to celebrate Halloween as well as for the group to raise funds to support the education initiatives at the school. 

Kristina Harrison Savage, vice president of the South Hill PTA, said the group funds various programs and trips for the school, in addition to providing supplies.

“We all just chip in and do what needs to be done,” Savage said. “The PTA supports so many programs and does so much for the community and the teachers and the staff here. We fund so many different projects, we provide enrichment, we fund field trips to Niagara Falls. We just did a parade up to Oak Hill Manor to visit with the residents so the residents could see the kids.”

Members of the Cornell University women’s gymnastics team were also present as volunteers to support the event, providing guests with directions and managing a table bake sale. Other elements of the event included a book sale, game stations and arts and crafts, and more.

Member Lauren Wong said the team participates in several volunteer initiatives throughout the year.

“We do a number of volunteer things every year,” Wong said. “Our coach’s children went here and she helps organize this. This is the only education-related volunteering we do, but we do miscellaneous other events in the town. We did the walk for suicide walk and into the streets where we help repair houses.”

Parent Deborah Seligmann Kratil said her family attends school events to show support.

“We are here because our son is in the third grade and he loves going to school events, and we wanted to come out and support the community.”

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Children dress up in costumes and play games at the South Hill Elementary Fall Festival. Photo Credit: Natalie Shanklin

Seligmann Kratil said the support of the PTA is important to schools.

“The PTA does fundraisers all year round,” she said. “They do education grants for teachers, they buy books for every student for their birthday, they fund field trips, and our final field trip is that the entire school goes to Cass Park for the day.”

Wong spoke of the importance of fundraisers at schools, using her own experience attending secondary school in California as an example.

“I think it’s always important because when public schools have more funding they can do a lot more for kids,” she said. “My public school when I was in California was super poor so there were a lot of opportunities that I didn’t have that other kids did so I think it’s important for schools to have funding because they can give kids more opportunities.”

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The Fall Festival was organized by the PTA to raise money for the school. Photo Credit: Ramya Vijayagopal

Savage said there is a nationwide concern with the funding of education in the United States. According to t
he Center for Education Reform, the United States is falling behind other countries in educational achievement, one example being the rank of 27th in math out of 34 countries.

“Throughout the whole country obviously our education still could use some more funding,” she said. “All of our money is fundraised and donated by parents and community members. We do enrichment, which will bring in science, and LEGO, and other things that the kids don’t have access to right now and the school can’t fit it in because their day is already so packed.”

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