Over the years, I never gave much thought about charity events like canned food drives. I would donate a few cans every now and then, but it wasn’t until I was personally involved in Dayton’s annual canned food drive last year, that I discovered my deep-seated passion for helping others. I never would have imagined that a fundraiser could have such a long-lasting impact on me.

In December of 2018, my peers and I united to raise money and canned food for last year’s local food drive. Overall, the school donated roughly 6,000 canned food items, helping to feed more than 100 low-income families in the community.

Mr. Fluke, Leadership and freshman AVID teacher at Dayton, was a big influence and advocate for the fundraiser. He reflected on his upbringing, explaining, “I’ve been pretty blessed in my life, so when I get the chance to help, I like to do that.”

Compelled to help his community, Mr. Fluke challenged his AVID class with a team-based competition: whichever team raised the most canned food would receive a prize. The competition fueled everyone to work hard. We competed against each other to develop our own game plan and find the best strategy to raise the most cans. Each team worked hard each day, asking for donations from fellow students and teachers, making posters, and walking to the local convenience stores to collect cans from donation boxes. But eventually, our focus shifted from the prize to assisting our community as a team.

It all started when my peers became focused on feeding their community. They developed a sense of purpose. This discovery fueled my classmates and me to raise over 4,000 canned food items all together.

As a student in Mr. Fluke’s AVID class, I experienced the full effect of the fundraiser. I discovered my interest in helping others and found a new purpose. I learned that when you do good for people, you receive joy in return; a testament to the old adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” This project helped me realize my impact on the community as well as myself. It even motivated me to make a difference in my other classes.

Following my experience, I discovered a new passion for helping others. I began to research projects to help my community, such as a science project about water preservation and sterilization. I also learned about how to take action during crisis situations by studying first aid and first responder procedures like CPR. 

Dayton’s Innovate mindset encourages these learning experiences by empowering students to explore new perspectives in life through education. In the future, when an opportunity to help arises — whether that be in my school district, my community or even the world —  I will remember this experience and have the courage to take action.

Raylee Heiden


Raylee Heiden is a freshman at Dayton High School. She takes education and school seriously, holding a 4.0 GPA. She is also deeply interested in art and hopes to go to an art school to study graphic design.