Myers Park students donate caps, gowns
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Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014

Myers Park students donate caps, gowns

    Tanzanian students shown wearing donated caps and gowns from Myers Park High School.
    Keenan Caddell and Sarah Cline, presidents of the Myers Park High School Foundation For Tomorrow Club, helped collect 50 caps and gowns from the recent graduation ceremonies. The donations will go to Africa for graduating students in Tanzania.

Students at Myers Park High School collected nearly 50 sets of caps and gowns following June 16 graduation ceremony.

The camps and gowns will go to students at USA River Academy in Tanzania, Africa, who will wear Mustang green gowns and caps for their own graduation this September.

This is the third year the school’s Foundation for Tomorrow Club has collected caps and gowns and passed them along. Foundation for Tomorrow is a Charlotte-based organization that helps schools and orphanages in Tanzania.

“Caps and gowns have sentimental value for many families, so we understand if these are items kept close to home,” said club co-president Sarah Cline, a rising senior who lives in Myers Park. “When someone chooses to donate their cap and gown, they are part of something much bigger than they know. Giving a cap and gown connects Myers Park with Tanzania and gives the students of USA River Academy a vote of confidence from their friends at Myers Park. Above all, it lets them know their circumstances cannot stop them from achieving and changing the world.”

According to UNICEF, there are nearly 2 million orphans in Tanzania, and the World Health Organization says 45 percent of the population is under the age of 15.

Co-president Keenan Caddell, a rising senior and resident of Chadwyck in south Charlotte, said the group’s goal this year was 40 to 50 gowns with caps.

“We want to assure that each student who graduates ... in September is provided with a cap and gown to make their graduation experience memorable for many years to come,” he said.

The club also supports a comprehensive scholarship program, helping to fund education, foster families, medical care and clothing and shoes. That program now has 104 scholars.

The Foundation for Tomorrow Club also sponsors Full Circle, an afterschool program focusing on life skills, confidence, HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, good hygiene and self-care. A third program offers teacher training, needs assessment, teacher observations and discussions with teachers and administrators to improve everyday methods.

Caddell said he became involved with the club as a sophomore when he wanted to dedicate a big portion of his time to its mission.

“One of most unique and rewarding aspects ... is that we are aiding kids who are just like us, the only difference is that they live about 8,000 miles away and they come from very different socioeconomic statuses,” he said.

Cline joined as a freshman.

“I went to a meeting and don’t remember much of it except what I really took away was the contrast between our education here and the education in Tanzania,” she said. “If I did not go to school here, someone would make sure I did, at least until I was of legal age.”

Maggie Boorman, the former Myers Park student who started the cap and gown drive in 2012 and is now a rising junior at Clemson University, said the idea was born when she was packing for college and realized she had no need for the cap or gown.

“Around this time, I’d heard about The Foundation for Tomorrow’s upcoming graduation ceremony in Tanzania, and I made the connection,” she said.

Boorman began a Facebook campaign, emailed friends and set up a collection box at her Deering Oaks home.

“In about two weeks, we collected 32 gowns and 75 caps,” she said.

In 2013, the club collected 40 gowns and 19 gowns, but it was one special cap and gown that students remember. The club received a donation from Katy Shannon, mother of their late classmate David Shannon who graduated in 2012, and later died.

“She dropped it off wrapped up in a big gold bow, with a note that said ‘This was David Shannon’s graduation gown.’ I thought this was very generous of the Shannon family to do, and I started thinking of something special we could do with this cap and gown to honor David’s memory,” said Boorman.

Club members decided to ask Richard Francis, the Tanzanian student they sponsored through the club, to wear Shannon’s cap and gown.

“On September 14, 2013, Richard Francis walked across the stage in Tanzania as he graduated ... , proudly wearing Mustang green,” said Boorman. “And even more proudly wearing the cap and gown of a student who embodied academic and athletic excellence, displayed loyal school spirit, and taught all of his classmates what it means to be a friend.”

Kathleen E. Conroy is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Kathleen? Email her at

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