In just over three hours last week, Newtown High School’s Peer Leadership group raised more than $1,000 for The Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
The group did it by enlisting seven NHS faculty members to stand in as servers at Pizza Palace Restaurant on February 12, with the restaurant’s customers — many of them students of the teachers — encouraged to tip generously during the special event.
The event ran from 4 to 7 pm. It was a project of Peer Leadership student Tessa Janiak, a junior at the high school. A former employee of the Church Hill Road restaurant, Tessa volunteered her time on Tuesday, helping teachers through their crash course in the world of food service. Tessa was also recently elected as public relations chair for the group. Nick Sajovic, who was at Pizza Palace for the event on February 12, is the group’s recently elected president.
Diners were told upon arrival, if they did not already know in advance, that the event was a fundraiser. Tips that were left for the faculty members were all donated to the support fund set up by the United Way of Western Connecticut. The restaurant had additionally promised to donate 15 percent of the proceeds from the timeframe as well.
At the end of the night, according to Pizza Palace co-owner Dila Dushku, $768 in tips had been counted. Ms Dushko’s donation on behalf of the restaurant was another $300.
Vivian Sheen, a business teacher at the high school and a Peer Leadership co-advisor, was lead coordinator for the event. Faculty members also participating in Tip-A-Teacher were Ed Alicea, Jen Dellasala, Mike Dyer, Dave Foss and Larry Saladin.
NHS Guidance Counselor Brett Nichols, who also serves as a co-advisor for the group, also participated in Tip-A-Teacher.
“It’s been very busy tonight,” Mr Nichols said, weaving his way between the tables and booths of the restaurant, a round tray tucked under his arm. The restaurant was packed for all three hours of the event, when countless orders of pizza and salad were rushed from the kitchen to tables where hungry patrons waited to dig in.
“Some of us said we could see ourselves working here, and some of us said we would only last about a week,” Mr Nichols said with a laugh, approaching one of the restaurant’s large corner booths. Seven members of his family — his parents, his wife, and their four children — were all waiting for him.
“It gives us a whole new appreciation for this job,” he said.
The event gave one of Mr Nichols’s daughters a new appreciation for her father. When asked if Daddy had been able to serve everyone their dinner without making any mistakes, 7-year-old Juliette Nichols smiled broadly and said, “Of course.”