On Tuesday morning, Alan Shawn Feinstein paid a visit to Oakland Beach Elementary School to deliver a special surprise. Because of student dedication to a canned food drive for the hungry and the other good deeds they had done, Feinstein presented the school with $8,000, which will be put toward the school’s future walking track.
Feinstein thanked the students for contributing so much to the canned food drive. He also told the students that more than 2 million joined in the campaign against hunger this year, a campaign that he said has raised more than $2 billion since its inception in 1991.
“You have the power to make people smile with your good deeds,” said Feinstein. “People respect you. They know you do good deeds for other people.”
He said students would receive new Feinstein Junior Scholar Cards to gain free access to a number of places across the state and new journals to keep track of their good deeds for the year. Feinstein handed an envelope to one young student, telling him it was a check for $3,000 to give to his principal.
A few minutes later he presented another envelope to another student, explaining that it was a check for $5,000 to give to her principal.
Principal Paul Heatherton was grateful to Feinstein for the donation, which will be put toward the estimated $40,000 walking track project that the school has been raising money for since the end of last school year.
“It’s going to put a big dent in that,” said Heatherton, explaining that the walking track would be open to the community and feature physical fitness stations for the students to use. Eventually, there would also be an outdoor classroom within the area as well.
Mary Chisholm, a sixth grade teacher at Oakland Beach, explained that when she last checked, close to $25,000 had been raised, so adding $8,000 to that puts them very close to their goal.
Chisholm and Heatherton said Feinstein has been a large supporter of this project, as well as Mayor Scott Avedisian, the city of Warwick, Oakland Beach alumni, and Warwick Representative Frank Ferri. While a lot of the funding has come from Feinstein, there have also been a number of grants awarded to Oakland Beach Elementary, including $3,000 from CVS Pharmacy for the project.
Part of the reason Feinstein has been so supportive of Oakland Beach is that the school is one of 138 Feinstein Leadership Schools in the state of Rhode Island. Heatherton explained that as a Leadership School, a newsletter must be sent out each month showcasing the good deeds performed by the students, and the can drive results in a monetary donation for the school. “For every canned good we bring in, he gives us one dollar,” explained Heatherton.
Before ending his visit, Feinstein told the students at Oakland Beach that a photo of students at his Leadership School in Honduras was featured in their journals because those students see the Junior Scholars as “heroes.”
“You are heroes to boys and girls in another country,” said Feinstein. “If you cannot live up to what other boys and girls think of you, shame on you.”
Heatherton says the students see Feinstein as a hero of sorts as well.
“They think he is a rock star,” said Heatherton. “He has a kind heart, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. I wish we had more people like him around.”
Although more funding is needed to complete the walking track project, Chisholm and Heatherton believe they will have the money to break ground this spring. In addition to pending grants, Chisholm is planning to host a reunion for Oakland Beach Elementary alumni as a fundraiser.
“We have the kids of the parents we had in sixth grade,” said Chisholm, explaining that Oakland Beach is a very established community. “It would be getting former teachers with former students. That’s the next thing we’re going to be working on.”
Chisholm also said the full walking track would likely be created in phases; the track itself first, followed by the physical fitness stations such as chin-up bars, balance beams or sit-up bars, then finally the outdoor classroom.
Before leaving the school, Feinstein also promised the students he would be back in the spring with another surprise.