Take Note

March 21, 2001 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Birthday Maker

At the Sacred Heart Shelter in Seattle, Michaela Raikes is working to make a difference for homeless families and their children by supplying a little birthday cheer.

An 8th grader at Seattle’s 500-student Villa Academy, Michaela began visiting the shelter three years ago and joined the shelter’s tutoring program.

Michaela noticed that her pupils never celebrated a birthday. She soon learned their parents often were too poor to afford parties. Some even asked staff members not to mention upcoming birthdays so their children would not be disappointed.

Shelter administrators say many of their clients either have been laid off, are recovering from a drug addiction, or are the victims of domestic abuse. Under such grim circumstances, there seemed little room for birthdays.

But Michaela was determined to change all that. She proposed her “Secret Birthday Pal” last spring. “While celebrating birthdays may not be considered a necessity, it gives parents and their children an important boost during a down period in their lives,” Micahela wrote.

To design"birthday kits,” she created a form for parents that asks children’s ages, allergies, favorite colors, favorite cartoon characters, and interests. Using her own allowance money and baby-sitting earnings, she buys plates, party favors, and small gifts.

Shelter officials pass the kits to parents. “What’s special about this program is the gift Michaela gives to the parents,” said Tracy Massey, a spokeswoman for the shelter. “To have someone provide them a way to throw a party for their child, instead of a stranger just coming in and taking the credit, means a lot to them.”

Although Michaela was content to remain anonymous, her efforts gained national attention after one of her teachers nominated her for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award, which she won. Since then, she has received several private donations.

—Marianne Hurst

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 21, 2001 edition of Education Week


English-Language Learners Webinar The Science of Reading and Multilingual Learners: What Educators Need to Know
Join experts in reading science and multilingual literacy to discuss what the latest research means for multilingual learners in classrooms adopting a science of reading-based approach.
School & District Management K-12 Essentials Forum Get a Strong Start to the New School Year
Get insights and actions from Education Week journalists and expert guests on how to start the new school year on strong footing.
Reading & Literacy Webinar A Roadmap to Multisensory Early Literacy Instruction: Accelerate Growth for All Students 
How can you develop key literacy skills with a diverse range of learners? Explore best practices and tips to meet the needs of all students. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion Give Students a Role in Their Education
Partnering students is one strategy teachers can use to make learning more meaningful for their charges.
3 min read
Friendly group of people stand and support each other.
IULIIA/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Teaching Tutoring or Remediation: Which Learning Recovery Strategy Is Most Popular?
Tutoring is backed by research, but remediation—going back over old content—could widen some academic gaps.
5 min read
Lacey Lassetter instructs the third grade ESL reading class at Jack Lowe Sr. Elementary School on March 4, 2022, in Dallas, Texas.
Lacey Lassetter teaches a 3rd grade reading class at Jack Lowe Sr. Elementary School in Dallas in March. The school uses “intersession” days to provide targeted teaching for struggling students, part of its strategy for pandemic learning recovery.
Laura Buckman for Education Week
Teaching Q&A Why Teachers' Voices Matter: A Q&A With Veteran Teacher, Author, and Blogger Larry Ferlazzo
The people most affected by a problem often have the best ideas on how to solve it, says the architect of Classroom Q&A.
8 min read
Larry Ferlazzo, left, and Katie Hull Sypnieski, his colleague and co-author, while picketing during an 8-day teacher strike in April.
Larry Ferlazzo, left, and Katie Hull Sypnieski, his colleague and co-author, take a pause while picketing during an eight-day teacher strike in April in Sacramento, Calif.
Courtesy of Larry Ferlazzo
Teaching Opinion Differentiated Instruction Doesn't Need to Be a Heavy Lift
Sometimes adapting instruction is just about making decisions in the moment to reach all students, regardless of their gifts or challenges.
3 min read