Milton Area High School students and faculty and community members donated $30,000-plus to build a school in Cambodia. The Cambodian school will be called Milton School in honor of the Northumberland County school's generosity.
The achievement demonstrates the effectiveness of harnessing youthful energy to benefit the community. It also illustrates the willingness of local educators to look beyond textbooks to enrich the academic lives of area students. Philanthropy and volunteerism are welcome additions to school curriculums.
An important part of growing up is realizing that individuals must consider the welfare of others. Cambodia may be on the other side of the globe, but as any Disney fan can tell you: It is a small world, after all.
However, such efforts — no matter how worthy — raise concerns when the fund-raising relies on the enthusiasm of youth as a tool to achieve aims set by adults. The Milton drive was the brainchild of a teacher who garnered the support of administrators and the school board before recruiting student supporters. Such a process may be appropriate for implementing a new program in an academic setting, but it raises the question of how much input students had in picking the goal.
The Milton school district is not unique in this regard. Many, if not most, youth sports and scouting organizations employ armies of children to sell fund-raising food items, candles, books, and other products. The goal may be to keep costs down so more children can participate, but the method can seem exploitative.
Children should learn the value of generosity and being civic-minded. They may appreciate such initiatives more if they are provided the opportunity to choose the charity they help rather than follow the bidding of their parents and other adults.