By Laura McAlister
When school let out in May, Stephanie Tunnell didn’t want to sit around and do nothing during her summer break. Instead, she opted to make a difference in a big way.
For the past several weeks, the incoming eighth grader at Pizitz Middle School has been planning a flash mob and back to school bash. It may sound like fun and games, but this event is for a good cause.
It’s going to help Vestavia public schools by raising money for the Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation.
“It just made sense,” said Stephanie’s mom Kristin. “She knows so many people in Vestavia.”
Kristin helped connect her daughter with Ashley Thompson, the foundation’s executive director.
The foundation provides financial support to all Vestavia City public schools. In addition to purchasing technology for the schools, it’s also funded professional development and educational programs. During the 2011-12 school year, the foundation awarded the system more than $78,000.
“I spoke to the whole foundation board to tell them what I wanted to do,” Stephanie said. “It was pretty cool, actually. I was a little nervous because I don’t like to talk as much as I do dance.”
Due to a slow economy, the schools have suffered state budget cuts in recent years, so raising money now for the foundation is more important than ever, Ashley said.
“The Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation board of directors has been blown away with Stephanie and her passion for this project,” Ashley said. “As parents of children in the system, we understand what proration has done to our system and the importance of growing the education endowment. This endowment provides professional development training to the teachers in the system, along with technology and classroom enhancements.
“For a middle school student to grasp this concept and spend their summer pulling an event together to help is amazing. She is a very special young lady.”
Stephanie’s Flash Mob for the Foundation and Back to School Bash will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Vestavia Hills City Center. Area merchants have joined in to donate a portion of their sales that evening to the foundation. Proceeds from the $20 fee to participate in the flash mob, which includes a T-shirt, dance lesson and snack, also will be donated to the foundation.
The actual flash mob will be geared toward kindergarten-eighth grade students, though Stephanie said anyone is welcome.
Participants can learn the dance and pick up T-shirts Aug. 15 or 16 from 10-noon in an empty room at the Vestavia Hills City Center.
In addition to getting merchants to participate in the fundraiser, Stephanie has also spent her summer working with Stephanie Thompson at Vestavia Dance to choreograph the dance for the flash mob.
Pizitz’s Stephanie, who has been taking dance lessons since she was 2, said she wanted the dance to be simple so people of all abilities could participate. She picked Jason Derulo’s “Undefeated” for the music.
“One part of the song we’ll sing,” she said. “That will be my favorite part. There’s going to be a lot of repetition in the dance and mostly hand movements.”
The flash mob’s T-shirts will have a logo on the front designed by Vestavia parent and graphic artist Ellen Shuemaker and, on the back, a list of the many sponsors Stephanie has persuaded to hop on board with the fundraiser.
Stephanie said the experience of planning the Flash Mob for the Foundation and Back to School Bash has taught her a lot, mainly about the Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation. She said she hopes participants – she hopes to have about 200 – will leave the event with a better understanding of what the foundation does for the school system.
For more information or to register for the flash mob, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 978-8808. For more information on the foundation, visit www.vestaviafoundation.org.