As the holiday season ramps up, it’s good to reminded that there is more to this time of year than buying gifts and going to parties. Some students at York have taken to heart the concept of giving and have received a lifelong gift in return.

Students in three honors Spanish classes at York have blended lessons in community, creativity, and technology and have raised more than $1,500 for relief efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

Teacher Catherine Disterheft had just finished a unit on community and was beginning a section on creativity when the hurricane struck. As the students became aware of the impact of the disaster on the island, they expressed in interest in wanting to do more. And so, Disterheft steered the next unit, technology, toward ways to inspire actual relief.

She helped her students understand that creativity isn’t just about art and music, but also about solving problems. And technology (and in this case particularly social media) can be a positive influence.

Each class created a CrowdRise website to raise money for Red Cross Disaster Relief, picking a fundraising goal and writing the copy in English and Spanish. They spread the word on social media and via flyers and a video broadcast by York TV and available on YouTube.

Through the process they became aware of the severe devastation of the island and the challenges of relief and rebuilding. They learned how many residents are without sufficient food and safe drinking water and how many will be without electricity or homes for the foreseeable future.

The project has combined the best of all words, allowing students to not only apply Spanish skills in a practical and useful way but to really understand how those skills can help others.

Fundraising pages will be open for donations until Dec. 17:

Stories like this remind us of what an amazing community we have here in Elmhurst. It’s a town where students can focus on more than just test scores and learn valuable lessons about concrete ways to help others in need. To learn more about life in Elmhurst, reach out to us anytime at (630) 441-5570 or visit