Scotchtown Hills Elementary

Students at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School in Laurel last week participated in a Homelessness Walk at the end of U.S. Red Ribbon Week. The students picked up trash during the walk. Over the course of the last two weeks, they've also collected food items for Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Harvey / October 29, 2013)

It's been a busy couple of weeks at Scotchtown Hills Elementary School, with students collecting canned goods for not one, but two good causes.

Since the second week of October, students have been bringing in nonperishable food items to donate to Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, a local organization that helps homeless and low-income families in the area. The goal, said fourth-grade teacher Jessica Harvey, was to collect one item per student for the drive. As of Monday, Oct. 28, more than 700 items had been collected. Harvey said whatever items are left after the one-per-student goal will go toward another food drive sponsored by Prince George's County Public Schools.

The food drive also fell on U.S. Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 21 to 25. The anti-drug week's theme this year was "A Healthy Me is Drug-Free," and every day students learned about saying "no" to drugs, becoming more aware of the dangers of not just illegal drugs, but over-the-counter and prescription medications, too, Harvey said.

"At every grade level, they were learning appropriate material," Harvey said. "Like, if you have a cough and your friend has a cough, they learned why they shouldn't take their friend's medication."

All of these events culminated Friday, Oct. 25 as students donned red and went ouside for a Walk to End Homelessness through neighborhoods surrounding Scotchtown Hills. During the walk, students in each grade level's Green Team picked up trash and either threw it away or recycled it.

"There were so many aspects to it, being drug-free and being responsible for your community," Harvey said. "But the biggest aspect was learning: Our family may not have a whole lot, but if we have a little, we can give something to help a family who has nothing. The kids really like helping out. We made posters, sang jingles about why helping others is important. They understand the impact they have, and they understand the food they collect can help out families in the area. It really hits home with a lot of them."