Diane Gomes is a senior at North Bergen High School and the president of the school's Student Council, who watched the horrific events of Sept. 11 unfurl on a television screen. Gomes felt that it was her civic duty to do something to help the relief efforts after the tragedy.
"I really felt so helpless watching it," Gomes said. "I wanted to do something. I wanted to help with something."
Fellow senior Ivana Skopelja, the president of the Key Club, agreed.
"The Key Club is always about helping people, about pulling together and doing our best," Skopelja said. "There was no better time for us to pull together and do something than at this time."
So the members of the Key Club, as well as the members of the school's Student Council, rallied their forces to collect money to help the victims of the World Trade Center tragedy.
Last Monday, representatives from both civic-minded school organizations presented American Red Cross Executive Director Robert Turberville checks totaling $6,300 to be used for the organization's World Trade Center Disaster Relief Fund.
The Key Club collected $4,100, while the Student Council raised $2,200. Needless to say, Turberville was impressed with the students' efforts.
"It's really amazing to find a group of kids that could raise more than $6,000," Turberville said. "Ever since Sept. 11, we've gone on the premise that any contribution helps and we appreciate anything we get. But when I see kids rallying together to help the cause, it really has an impact."
Turberville said that he has been overwhelmed with the generosity that has been shown throughout the Hudson County chapter, especially with school children and teenagers.
"It's been unbelievable," Turberville said. "Practically every school is helping in their own way. It really has had a snowball effect throughout the county."
The response from the caring students at North Bergen High was very impressive in its own right, a grass roots effort that saw students going door-to-door in search of contributions.
"We went around school, outside school, to our parents, to local businesses," Gomes said. "We had the envelopes from the Red Cross to hand out to people and ask if they were interested to donate. We just walked around the neighborhood to see if people were willing to donate. And we found a lot of people were."
Skopelja said that she was shocked when all the money was counted and they reached the final tally of more than $6,000.
"I was extremely surprised," Skopelja said. "Especially from the Key Club, because we don't have a lot of members. But when Mr. [Robert] Komar [the faculty moderator of the Key Club] told me the amount of money, I was so happy. I have to thank the generosity of the people who donated. So many people were willing to donate. Others even wanted to donate more and more."
Komar said that was extremely proud of the students' efforts.
"I think everyone's hearts goes out to the victims at this time, but I'm very proud of the Key Club members for such an effort," Komar said. "Everyone in the community was willing to donate and that was a big help."
Skopelja said that the effort just shows what teamwork could accomplish.
"Hopefully, we've shown a lot of people, especially our students, that when we pull together, we can make a difference," Skopelja said. "I hope we've all learned that working toward this one goal has gone a long way."Pictured: From left are, Robert Komar, faculty moderator for the Key Club, Turberville, junior Rubina Momotaz, senior Ivana Skopelja, the president of the Key Club; Diane Gomes, the president of the Student Council and Kathryn Prezioso, a member of the Key Club.