The “U.S. to Africa” fundraising concert came back bigger and better in its second year and moved the project tantalizingly close to its goal of building a school for — and a relationship with — children in Mali.
Nicholasville Elementary School music teacher Matt Sanders began the project last year with a concert featuring Nicholasville students that raised $3,500. This year’s concert May 18 added choral and percussion groups from West Jessamine Middle School and West Jessamine High School and raised a gross total of $5,454 from about 500 people in attendance.
The concert, held in the West Jessamine Middle School gymnasium, featured African music from the choir of 200 students as well as the other percussion and band groups. Sanders said the addition of the middle-schoolers and high-schoolers broadened the musical repertoire.
“It helped us to share the story a little bit with other students, but the musical part of it — the middle-schoolers added so much to the program,” Sanders said. “They did a feature song by themselves, and they had a bunch of soloists … they added a whole other dimension to it that was beautiful.”
Several old school chairs hand-painted by Nicholasville students were also auctioned off to raise money at the concert; Sanders said they went for as high as $700.
Students and their teachers took time to speak to the audience about building a sister school for Nicholasville Elementary, but a video message from African Sky director Scott Lacy also celebrated a school just completed in Soumabougou, Mali; Sanders helped raise money for that school while he was at a school in Winter Springs, Fla.
“When it started in 2007, it was just a dream of building a school, but this year, a couple months ago, the very first school that I helped raise money for actually was finished,” he said.
Sanders said the Nicholasville project was helped along a bit by about $3,000 left over from his Winter Springs school that the principal there had allowed him to use for the new school. He said a few other donors have contacted him asking to “finish off” the fundraising that needs a total of $14,500 to build a school.
The new school in Mali will be called Nicholasville-Winter Springs Elementary and will be a sister school for students in Nicholasville once it is built — which should be within a year, Sanders said — and has students attending.
“The friendship part of it is what it was intended to be, but you have to build the school first,” he said.
Sanders won’t be back at Nicholasville Elementary next year; he’s moving to Mount Sterling and won’t be teaching, but he said that won’t stop his efforts to build international partnerships between young students.
“I’m not going to a new school in Mount Sterling, but I don’t plan on stopping,” he said. “If there are schools in the area near where I am that are interested in doing this, I’d like to be a liaison between African Sky and those schools and help to actually promote the creation of concerts or some kind of benefit to raise money toward the schools.”