Hurricane Sandy saddened many here on the West Coast. But one caring girl decided to do something about it.
Sarah Stell, a seventh-grader at Edna Hill Middle, was shocked by the photos of the damage: homes washed away, sand-covered streets, flooded subways. Her mother, Chris, said after days of seeing the tragic images, Sarah decided, "I want to do something to help."
And help, she did.
There was talk of sending blankets and warm hats, but ultimately Sarah decided a money collection was the best option.
The Brentwood 12-year-old took her idea for the drive to Principal Kirsten Jobb.
Jobb thought, "What a generous idea, and what an amazing young lady.
"I stood in awe of a young person thinking of others, and beyond herself."
Sarah explained her idea during morning announcements, speaking "from her heart," Jobb said.
Within a week, Sarah was knee deep counting coins upon coins.
The grand total was $450, which was sent to the Rotary Club of Staten Island. Sarah felt that area had been neglected.
Sarah's drive started a bit of a chain reaction at the Brentwood school, with theater director Bart Schneider and the Edna Hill Parents' Club joining forces to donate concession proceeds from "The Little Mermaid" production. They gave more than $800 to the American Red Cross.
This isn't Sarah's first time in the giving arena. Mom Chris said as a member of the Brentwood 4-H, Sarah has been in charge of some food drives.
"However, she came up with this idea all on her own and ran with it."
Naturally, parents and principal are proud of Sarah's thoughtful efforts.
"She's always been very caring and willing to help others when needed," Chris Stell said.
Sarah was thrilled at the total, and grateful for her school's support.
"She is incredible," Jobb said about Sarah.
For more information, call 925-513-6440.
THE ROYAL TREATMENT: Nearly 100 people turned out for a recent audition for the next Heritage High stage production.
While the Brentwood school has earned a reputation for great theater, this round had a special vibe.
The spring musical is "We Will Rock You," which was written by the classic rock group Queen.
Heritage was selected by Queen's management team to be the "first (and, currently, only) high school in the U.S. granted the right to produce and perform the outstanding West End musical," teacher Hillary Pedrotti said. "This is an absolute thrill for us."
Chris Fallows, the school's director, said: "(The students) raised their game from last year. We had so many strong performers, we had to try to get as many as possible into the cast."
Nearly 60 cast members -- the most Heritage has ever had -- will hit the stage in spring. Leading the way will be Zinah Abraha as Scaramouche and Jaeda Smith as the Killer Queen. Folks lucky enough to have seen the award-winning show "Hairspray" last year will recognize this talented pair. They played Tracy Turnbald and Motormouth, respectively.
The other five "Rock" leads (making their musical debut) are Zach Elsasser (Galileo), Alex Finlez (Brit), Blake Jensen (Pop), Madeline Bustos (Meatloaf), and Ryan Stubo (Khashoggi).
With so many strong auditions, Fallows said it was "Exciting because we had so many people from which to choose," adding that it was taxing because they had to choose from among a large group of "really great performers."
"The end result is something of an all-star cast that I think will rock."
The director and cast are particularly excited about the music of Queen. "It will be amazing," Fallows said. "You can feel the buzz when the kids talk about it."
The show runs in early March; tickets go on sale in January. Like "Hairspray," "We Will Rock You" is expected to sell out, but perhaps even more quickly. For more information, call 925-634-0037.
SUPER STAGING: Deer Valley's Thespian Club recently took the challenge of only having one day to go from start to stage.
Aptly titled, the "24-Hour Play" had students split into groups and received a starter subject. Within 24 hours, the actors had to write, direct, gather props and costumes and perform in the Antioch school's theater.
This challenging event is held twice a year.
This time about 40 students jumped into the fray, offering drama and comedy with teacher Robert Richardson on hand for guidance. Criteria included a running time of 10- to 20-minutes while keeping their audience in mind.
"But, mostly, be creative and have fun with this," Richardson advised.
The topic starters were: "Ineloquently ice fishing at the end of the Universe," "Queen Elizabeth in a Freudian slip," "Michael Jackson dangling his child off the balcony," "How many opposing ideas can the human brain hold?" "Dancing in the moonlight reflected from a hubcap" and "How far East can you go before it is West?"
For more information on the 24-Hour Play, call 925-776-5555, ext. 7442.