EARLY— The Early High School Community Problem Solvers kicked off a campaign to help renovate the ARK Domestic Violence Shelter during Friday’s pep rally.

As part of a week-long fundraiser to raise money for project costs, students donated enough money for Early High School Math Teacher Betty Gail Wood-Rush to kiss a pig, which was something she said she gladly did considering.

“This is a big deal for me. We had a situation a few years ago where I had to go to the ARK and use some of their services myself,” Wood-Rush said. “This is something that is pretty special to me and I was honored when the kids came and asked me if I would participate. [$203] is a lot of money from kids. On Wednesday, I was behind by $10 and I had kids coming up and saying ‘Come on, let’s support our favorite teacher.’”

While the pep rally for the Early-Jim Ned district showdown may have been on the minds of many in attendance, no one minded the slight detour. In fact, many attended for the spectacle of seeing a teacher kiss a pig and Wood-Rush did not disappoint.

“I tried to get away with giving him a peck on the top of the head,” Wood-Rush said. “He had saw dust all over him and a runny nose. We had to wipe his nose and clean him up. I hoped up get by with two (kisses), but they did not let me. That’s OK. It’s all about doing it for the A.R.K. anyway.”

Students with the Early High School Community Problem Solvers said they sought the project after touring the A.R.K.’s facilities and recognizing a few areas where they can contribute to assisting in the recovery of domestic violence victims.

“They are a shelter they can go to that is pet friendly and non-gender specified,” CPD member Mikaela Johnson said. “Kids can come and they provide resources and support to the victims after they leave the shelter. We realized how shocking the domestic violence statistics are. We just wanted to help our community since it’s such a big problem.”

Through future events such as: bake sale, supply drive and middle school Christmas dance, the students hope to raise enough money to repaint, replace some of the flooring, repair windows and replenish the A.R.K.’s community library. Once the year ends, CPS students will take the funds and supplies and work on renovations. Regardless of what they can accomplish before the end of the school 2018-2019 school year, CPS Treasurer Prashtab Ghimire believes any progress toward bettering the lives of society’s most victimized is a success.

“It’s nice knowing that you’re doing something to change it and prevent (domestic violence) from happening,” Ghimire said. “The A.R.K.’s name is exactly what it does. It helps people who are abused and it helps and comforts them in their time of need.”

While researching area domestic violence, CPS students reached out to Early City Police Chief Terry Mercer. From their conversation, the students came to the concluded there is nothing they can do to curb the growing number of reported domestic violence cases, but they can provide assist A.R.K. in its mission.

“[Mercer] said in Brown County he responds to a domestic call daily or almost daily,” CPS member Sidney Becktold said. “That’s shocking because it grows. It has been growing throughout the years. We can’t stop it. We know that, but we can raise awareness and help them with outreach. We can help make their lives more comfortable.”