BELEN — A class of fifth-graders at St. Mary’s Catholic School spent one of their last days of the school year reading in order to raise money to help refugees of the war in Ukraine.

Photo courtesy of Merita Wilson
Students from Merita Wilson’s fifth-grade class at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Belen hosted a read-in, raising nearly $2,000 to provide relief for families fleeing Ukraine due to the war. The students put together two sleeping bags — one yellow and one blue — to resemble the Ukrainian flag.

On May 20, Merita Wilson’s class held a read-in, raising $1,836 for Catholic Relief Services to provide food, clothing and safe transport to shelter for Ukrainian refugees.

Wilson said after hearing about what was happening just a day’s flight away, her students wanted to help in the best way they could.

“It was big time in the news for a little while. In the mornings sometimes, we have this huge TV in our room and I would put it on there — no graphic scenes — but scenes of what was happening.”

According to Wilson, throughout the day, the students mainly read “read-alouds,” commonly known as picture books, some even reading at an eighth and ninth grade reading level.

After reading a book, the student would then go to the computer to test their knowledge on the book they just finished. Each book resulted in the students accumulating points and therefore donations to be contributed towards the war in Ukraine.

Prior to the read-in, the students received pledges from their friends and family, promising a donation for every point they earned by reading books. Most pledged 25 or 50 cents for every point.

“To be truthful, they didn’t go to recess that day, they did go to PE that day, they didn’t go to any other specials,” Wilson said. “One of our moms donated pizza and another one donated drinks and so we even ate lunch (in the classroom) and they read while they ate. So, by the end of the day they were tired.”

To donate to Catholic Relief Services’ effort in helping families flee Ukraine, go to support.crs.org/donate/donate-ukraine.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.