25,000 MCHS letters go West
By Kathryn Schiliro
Darius may have gone west, but this Thursday, February 12 Morgan County High School students are going, well, postal.
Inspired by the multi award-winning documentary film "Darius Goes West," which chronicles the journey of then 15-year-old Athens native Darius Weems, who has been diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), and 11 of his friends across the country to California to have Weems' wheelchair customized by MTV's "Pimp My Ride," several students at the school felt led to begin a local effort to aid Darius' cause of DMD research.
"We got 'Darius Goes West' from a teacher here who taught Darius at Clarke Central [High School]," student Emily DeJarnett said. "Everyone in school watched it. We got a response from everyone. To top it off, Darius came to an assembly at school."
And what they came up with is set to rock the United States Postal Service come Thursday.
This handful of students is launching a letter-writing campaign, funded by a donation from Gainesville-based Advanced Turbine Support Inc., with an ultimate goal of sending a handwritten letter, along with informational brochure and single copy of "Darius Goes West," to every single high school in America. This goal goes hand-in-hand with the Darius Goes West campaign's latest effort, "One Year...One Million DVDs," to sell one million copies of "Darius Goes West" at $20, with $17 from each DVD going to fund DMD research.
There are 25,000 high schools nationwide, and it is the students' hope that the correspondence will not only prompt schools to purchase the DVDs but also raise awareness about DMD as well as handicap accessibility.
"We wanted to do something more to spread awareness," DeJarnett said. "We thought 'Let's get it out there to the schools and maybe it will spread through communities that way.'"
Those involved with the Darius Goes West organization were immediately impressed.
"For these students to come up with the idea 'Let's write every single high school,' that blew us away," Barbara Smalley, of the Darius Goes West organization, said. "They think big; we think big."
While the Morgan County students began planning, Darius representatives went about securing funding for the project.
Because each high school nationwide will receive a personalized letter from a student, it is Morgan County students' desire that the schools will be intrigued with the idea of purchasing and showing the DVD.
"Hopefully they'll take it as 'Wow, it inspired this school. Let's see if it inspires ours,'" DeJarnett said.
Morgan County High School is getting a little help with their effort. Jamesville DeWitt Middle School near Syracuse, New York as well as I.S. 109 and I.S. 528 in New York City will write middle schools across the nation, while Savannah Country Day School in Savannah will write the nation's 3,000 private schools.
While writing a letter to every high school in the nation in one day seems unthinkable - each student at Morgan County High School will be responsible for composing at least 25 letters each on Thursday - the logistics of the project itself have proven complicated.
It took a tractor-trailer to transport the 900-pound palettes of DVDs and another tractor-trailer to bring in the mailers for the correspondence.
All of the materials are being stored in the school's new gym, where a group from Student Council will be packaging the materials before they are sent off.
"The kids have been so diligent and organized," Leslie Smith, Morgan County High School counselor who has played a role in helping students coordinate the event, said.
"I expect February 12 to be a massive day but one that goes off without a hitch."
"Failure has never been an option," Principal Mark Wilson said.