Story by Josephine Bryant and Ammie Bryant
Stillwater Makes a Change (SMAC) was founded by Stillwater High School students in 2009. Since its founding, SMAC has chosen a different local charity each year to benefit. While fundraising events and activities throughout the year students also raise awareness for the charity’s mission.
Since its inception, SMAC has been entirely student led. Throughout the year, students plan and execute events and activities with oversight and guidance from sponsoring teachers. “SMAC is an inspiring testament to the power of empathy leading to collective action that not only allows students to take part in something bigger than themselves, but also gives them the opportunity to stretch out beyond themselves,” said SHS Teacher Hope Shepard, one of SMAC’s sponsors. “SMAC fosters awareness, advocacy, and altruism in students as they seek out ways to effect positive change in their community.”
This year’s beneficiary is Mya’s Promise, an organization dedicated to helping kids with special needs as well as their families. The organization seeks to provide education programs, scholarships, and activities that promote social and personal growth for the children. SMAC’s goal is to raise $200,000 to benefit the Playability Project. This collaboration between Mya’s Promise, the City of Stillwater, and SMAC will create a new accessible playground and gathering place at Strickland Park. For more information visit www.myaspromise.org.
For Shepard, SMAC’s most important benefit is the growth it fosters in the students. “My goal for SMAC is to empower students to become leaders who have the skills they need to fight on behalf of those in need. I’d also like to raise money to support Mya’s Promise and build an an-inclusive playground in Stillwater, but my primary goal as a SMAC sponsor is the formation of empathic and empowered human beings.”
Ceci Smith has found serving as the 2018-19 Executive Director to be a challenging but rewarding experience. “I have grown so much as a leader, and I have made some amazing connections in our community. Typically during the year I spend at least three hours a day on different SMAC responsibilities,” said Smith. “Not only have I loved being able to work with fellow students to put on fun events, but working with Mya’s Promise and seeing the kids this park will help is absolutely amazing!”
Every spring, Stillwater High School transforms with the famous SMAC Decs, which are made and put up by students. SMAC week always has a theme to get the students and community excited for the event, this year’s theme was “SMAC: 10 Years of Change.” Each hall of the high school was decorated to represent a past year’s theme, with the main hallway being a timeline of all the themes together.
Different events like SMAC You With Color Run” and “SMAC Gala” are held throughout the year, leading up to SMAC Week. The first of week of April, SMAC Week included events like trivia night, SMAC Bash, and princess’s day out. The Mangeant, a pageant for the Stillwater High School Senior men, is one of the most popular events and kicks off the week. Each young man represents an organization or activity. This year’s contestants were Ryan Clark- Mr. Swim, Brandon Crutcher- Mr. Orchestra, Derek Fix- Mr. SMAC, Garrett Kirksey- Mr. AFRO-AM, Sam Sheidler- Mr. Mock Trial, Artie Smith- Mr. Track, Cal Tracy- Mr. Tennis, Joseph Vaverka- Mr. Tech Theatre, and Andrew Winn- Mr. Football. The winner of the SHS Mangeant was Mr. Tennis, Cal Tracy.
As an extra incentive, Principal Uwe Gordon, Assistant Principal Walter Howell, and Assistant Principal George Horton agreed to shave their heads if the Mangeant raised at least $1,000. The 2019 Mangeant raised over $2,000 for SMAC. The High School administrators fulfilled their promise with a public head-shaving. According to the SHS Pioneers Twitter account, “It was our honor to ‘pay up’ our SMAC bet after losing again this year.”
Ceci Smith sees a very bright future for SMAC. “The future of SMAC is endless! It has grown bigger and bigger every year!” Last year, SMAC raised a total of $170,032.46 and over the past nine years has raised a grand total of $659,308 for nine different charities.
“I have full confidence Stillwater Makes a Change will continue to bring students and the community together for the greater good,” said Smith. For more information on how you can help make a change, visit www.stillwatermakesachange.com
Editor’s Note: As of the Dance-A-Thon on May 4, 2019, SMAC had raised a total of $200,000 for Mya’s Promise Playability Project. Thank you SMAC for all you do to make Stillwater a better place!