Students at City Springs Elementary/Middle School spent the first few weeks of September raising money for victims of Hurricane Harvey, quickly gaining national attention for their efforts. Thousands of people chimed in on Twitter to say they were inspired that some of the city’s poorest and youngest residents would donate what they had to others.
One of the people who took notice of the altruistic kids was TV host Ellen DeGeneres. A video about the students at the Southeast Baltimore school and their eighth-grade humanities teacher, Wyatt Oroke, was featured on her popular television show Friday afternoon, and ended with the students receiving a donation for their school. DeGeneres’ team surprised the students with a giant check for $25,000 made out to the school.
Oroke — who launched the viral fundraising effort by showing his students photos of devastated Houston — was visibly shocked as he watched, via live video, the check being presented to the students, who jumped up and down and screamed with joy.
Oroke was emotional during the eight-minute spot and cried as he sat and talked with DeGeneres about his love of teaching and his concern for his students.
“You’re amazing,” DeGeneres said to him. He responded: “The kids are amazing, it’s all the kids.”
Oroke said he had no idea that he would be brought out from the audience as a guest.
Before Oroke came on stage, a video was played featuring City Springs students talking about their college aspirations and desire to work as veterinarians, doctors, contractors or photographers. The students come from families with one of the highest poverty rates in the city.
As Oroke watched the live-shot from the studio, the students described what he means to them and the lessons he’s taught them.
“What happens in classrooms today impacts what happens in the world tomorrow,” Oroke said. “If you fill your classroom with love today, you’re going to fill the world with love tomorrow.”
City Springs Principal Rhonda Richetta said she isn’t sure what the school will do with the money, but she wants the community to help determine how it should be spent. She has asked teachers to solicit suggestions from students. Then, with guidance from Oroke and some of his eighth-graders, the administration will decide how to allocate the funds.
Richetta and her staff watched the segment air on television while sitting together in a restaurant in Little Italy.
“Today has just been incredible,” she said.