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Bright Future: Doing their part to help

LAUREN WOOD/THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Fifth graders Isrealle Belcher, 11, left, and Elana Armsted, 10, work on a pop quiz in Shamekia Isaac’s science classroom Wednesday afternoon at McLaurin Elementary School. Isaac’s homeroom class is one of the top collectors for the school’s Thanksgiving food drive.

NATCHEZ — Isrealle Belcher has dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian or a beautician, but she has taken a little time out of each day during the last month to put her dreams on hold and think about some of the less fortunate members of her community.

Belcher has been collecting canned food to bring to school as part of McLaurin Elementary School’s Thanksgiving food drive, and she said the project has really made her think about helping other people.

“It’s good because there are homeless people that need food at the Stewpot, and I get to work to bring food for the homeless,” 11-year-old Belcher said.

Belcher is a member of Shamekia Isaac’s fifth-grade homeroom class, a class that is one of the top can collectors in the school. The winning classroom will be rewarded with a pizza party after the final tally is calculated today.

Belcher said her class has been consistent in its approach to winning the competition and in turn feeding the hungry.

“We bring cans in almost every day. Every time we can, we bring in cans,” she said.

Belcher said she is excited about the pizza party that may be in her class’ future, but she is more pleased that she is helping out some of Natchez’s less fortunate community members during the holidays.

“Thanksgiving is great, because you get together, and it’s a big celebration with family and everyone eats together,” she said. “And this is great, because (less fortunate people) don’t usually get to do things like that.”

The competition is also being used as a teaching tool for McLaurin’s faculty, Isaac said.

“It is getting children to understand that you like getting, but giving is so much better,” Isaac said.

The competition has grown since it started at the end of October, and Isaac said there is a small battle raging between her class and one of the kindergarten classes that is collecting cans at a very fast pace.

“We’ve been talking a little trash back and forth,” Isaac said.

One student that is really pushing the fifth graders is 11-year-old Hope Bell. Bell has brought in approximately 25 cans so far, and she hopes to make a push on the final day today.

“I am doing it because I am blessed with food, and there are other people not as fortunate as me, and it feels important to help them,” she said.

Bell said she loves to help people, and this contest allows her an outlet to practice her passion. She said she hopes to be a counselor when she gets older.

“I just like to study emotions and how people feel,” she said.

For 10-year-old Cortayvias Haynes, the competition is allowing him to interact with his new classmates and help people in his new community.

Haynes moved to Natchez from Illinois recently, and he said he is glad to be a part of the food drive.

“I like that I can help the school and feel better about myself and can make a difference,” he said.

But Haynes said there is one canned food item that he could not resist saving for himself.

“I like ravioli,” he said. “I ate that myself.”

Isaac said the fifth graders have also taken pride knowing they are the leaders of the school as the oldest class.

“Hopefully we win, because we have the fifth graders, who are like the seniors on campus,” Isaac said. “I hope they win. It would be pretty cool.”

The pizza party will be funded by the Natchez High School Alumni Association, and the students will enjoy their prize after Thanksgiving break.

Isaac said her class might continue the giving spirit and share the party with a younger class if it wins.

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