Perry Central students' generosity helps war-torn counterparts in Iraq

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By The Staff

LEOPOLD - A demonstration of Perry County generosity has helped to build a bridge of understanding and cooperation between two nations separated by culture, war and thousands of miles.

Six boxes of school supplies donated by Perry Central elementary and high-school students recently arrived at Ali Air Base, Iraq. Students recently received a photo showing the just-arrived boxes and a letter of appreciation held by Air Force Sgt. Charles Criswell. The airman's brother, Perry Central teacher Kurt Cooper, helped organize the school-supply project in December with help from student council members and faculty sponsors.

With 13 years of service, Criswell is stationed in Las Vegas and is due stateside soon after completing a six-month deployment. Cooper said another airman came up with the idea of collecting school supplies for students attending three schools in a safe zone overseen by Criswell's unit.

"They basically have absolutely nothing, dirt floors and walls that have been blown out (by fighting)," Cooper said. "Each of the men was asked to contact people back in the states to get the drive started."

At Perry Central, Cooper found eager helpers in elementary and high-school student council members, who helped build enthusiasm across the student body. Faculty sponsors Mary Jo Hagedorn and Jamie Guillaume also got involved, as did Superintendent Mary Roberson and Elementary Principal Ray James.

"It was something I wasn't going to be able to do all on my own, so I needed help," Cooper said. "They all came through."

Students collected pencils, paper, binders, folders and even a few calculators for their Iraqi counterparts.

The six boxes were shipped off shortly before students left for Christmas break and arrived about two weeks later.