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Darien seventh graders raise money for victims of Turkey, Syria earthquake

Middlesex Middle School 7th graders gather at the home of Fitnat Coonan for the girl's first brainstorming session where they were researching the scale and devastation of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and planning their first fundraising steps.
Photo Courtesy of Fitnat Coonan
Middlesex Middle School seventh graders gather at the home of Fitnat Coonan for the first brainstorming session where they researched the scale and devastation of the earthquake in Turkey and Syria and planned their first fundraising steps.

A group of seventh-grade girls in Darien is raising money for victims of an earthquake that hit parts of Turkey and Syria on Feb. 6 and has killed more than 47,000 people. Nine students at Middlesex Middle School are focusing on the town of Bursa in Turkey where one of the students, Eliz Coonan, has extended family.

The girls met their goal of $10,000 through GoFundMe, which will help relief organizations overseas and assist families and children in Bursa who have been displaced from their homes.

“We heard about the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, we all really wanted to help from the beginning," said 13-year-old Maddie Rosenberry. "One of our moms is actually from Turkey, so we felt a personal connection to it. After school, a bunch of us got together and came up with ideas we could use to raise money."

They’re distributing flyers around town with QR codes to explain where the donation money will end up. The girls are also using social media to raise awareness, and they started an Instagram account called “7th Graders Helping Turkey.”

“They’ve done everything independently,” said Caitlin O’Keefe, the assistant principal at Middlesex Middle School. “It’s like an educator’s dream to see this ... for them to take on something that’s so much bigger than Darien.”

The girls plan to keep fundraising to help meet the needs of the people in Turkey who are rebuilding their lives and identify other areas where they can help.

“I’ve learned the power of a small community,” said Lila Sutliff, a student at Middlesex Middle School. “I’ve also learned that young kids like us can make a huge difference in the world.”

The students involved in helping organize the fundraiser are: Eliz Coonan, Maya Collins, Izzy Djiounas, Katie Thistle, Vesper Clark, Maddie Rosenberry, Reese Salmore, Lena Blumenthal and Lila Sutliff.

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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