In all of its rich history, Cedar Park Middle School holds one tradition in high esteem: its annual canned food drive. Originated in 1982 at Leander Junior High School, the drive was an idea of one of Leander ISD’s administrators, Ron LeFevers, as a way to give back to the community. The school held a basketball game, and students paid for admission by donating one can a piece.

LeFevers carried the canned food drive tradition over to Cedar Park MS when it opened in 1995 – with LeFevers as the principal and Sandra Stewart as an assistant principal. When Stewart became the Cedar Park MS principal in 1997, she made it her mission to keep the food drive tradition alive.

“This outreach was started just by each kid bringing one can and has grown from there,” Stewart said. “And I’ve kept it alive, because I think it is huge.”

As the size of the district grew, so did the canned food drive. Not only did it grow in the amount of donations and degree of community outreach, it also transformed into an academic and ethical tool.

Leadership students focus on team-building and job seeking-skills in the weeks leading up to the canned food drive, preparing them to spend 14 days running a “Canned Food Drive” business. Adrina Rodriguez, leadership teacher and student council sponsor at Cedar Park MS, assigns students jobs. The students collect, weigh, calculate and box the cans. Students serve as room managers and official recorders.

While leadership students run the “business” side of the drive, student council members facilitate the drive. This year, the council implemented a Saturday drop-off event. For students who walk and bike to school, the Saturday drop-off event makes donating more of a convenience. Art students create signs for the event in addition to the posters throughout the school hallways reminding students to participate.

“They love knowing they’re contributing,” Rodriguez said. “It’s mind-blowing to go into a room and ask if anyone has money they would like to donate to the food drive, and kids will pull out their money, and they’ll look at it … and they’ll go, ‘Okay, I can do it.’ And they’ll donate, because they know that they’re feeding people that need the food.”

Every year, the school sets a goal. Every dollar donated is worth 1 pound, and every good is measured in pounds. The combined dollar and poundage total accumulates to a goal, and the proceeds are donated to Hill Country Community Ministries every year.

Stewart said the success of the canned food drive is due in part to the giving, open community surrounding Cedar Park MS and a combination of the willingness of the teachers and students to donate to a good cause.

“We encourage kids, as I make the announcements, to reflect on concern for others,” said Stewart, noting November’s ethical principle, “to think about whether you need that snack in the snack bar today, or you can drop that change with your teacher to buy something for someone else. We talk about making sacrifice.”

There is also a competitive edge to the canned food drive, with fun incentives for participations. The student council sponsors an ice cream sundae party for the team with the highest amount of donations. At the Thanksgiving assembly, the winning grade-level gets to deliver a pie in the face to the assistant principal. Lisa Frizell, QUEST teacher and reigning team winner, also gets “pie’d” by the winner of the individual team.

This year, Cedar Park MS collected a record-breaking 6,500 pounds and $6,665.00.

“If you have, you should give,” Stewart said. “It’s all about sharing.”