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Turners students help ‘Monte’ march

  • Turners Falls High School ninth-graders Abby Sanders, Kiley Palmquist and Hannah Warnock participated in Monte’s March in the rain and snow on Tuesday. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • Great Falls Middle School seventh-graders Jillian Reynolds, Izzy Vachula-Curtis, Isabel Garcia and Turners Falls High School ninth-grader Emily Young walked in Monte’s March for 8 miles beginning in Amherst and ending in Sunderland. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO



Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2018

MONTAGUE — Much like their neighbor, Christopher “Monte” Belmonte, students at Great Falls Middle School and Turners Falls High School care about hunger and food insecurity.

Students from both schools walked eight miles of the 43-mile Monte’s March on Tuesday, ending in Sunderland at the Bridgeside Grille.

Two teachers at the schools worked together to start a friendly competition to raise money to join in the annual hunger march. Teachers Jessica Vachula-Curtis and Jennifer Luciano teamed up to get students involved in the march and host a food drive. This is the first year the school has been able to participate, with about 41 students who signed up to walk.

“I’ve been trying to do this before, because I listen to Monte on the radio,” Vachula-Curtis said. “I’ve never been able to get involved, and when I heard that 7th graders did projects about food insecurity in the community, it got me thinking about doing the march this year.”

To get the students motivated, the teachers started a competition to see which school could raise more money. Between the two schools, students raised approximately $2,800, exceeding their goal by $800.

Vachula-Curtis said while she had concerns about transporting students, Franklin County Regional Transportation donated a bus and a driver to transport students to and from the school.

“This is really exciting, because I mostly have underclassmen participating,” Vachula-Curtis said. “Next year, they’ll be back, and hopefully will generate more participation next year and kids will really anticipate this event.”

Luciano said after having the ability to expand her social studies projects to include local issues, including hunger and food insecurity, she got the idea to participate in the march and Belmonte even came to her class to speak with students. She said the event raised interest in her students to march.

“The idea was to make a difference,” Luciano said. “It was really fun, and I got to teach about about topics that matter.”

Her students said they enjoyed participating in the march and look forward to it again next year.

Eighth-grader Cady Sanchez-Wozniak said when her class did a project on food insecurity, one of their tasks was to find solutions to the problem.

“We wanted to raise awareness of the problem, and when Monte came to our class and spoke about it, it was really insightful,” Sanchez-Wozniak said. “There were so many people that participated and so much money raised, it inspired us to be a part of it.”

Another student, junior Jakob Shearer, said he wanted to participate for the experience outside of the classroom.

“We got to go to the mobile food bank in Turners Falls, and we mostly helped carry bags for people, but it really helped,” Shearer said. “In the future, I hope we can do more, because people need these resources to help them keep going.”