By Ryan Cornell
WOODSTOCK -- The woven bracelets fit snugly around their wrists, in dazzling shocks of yellow, red and blue.
Rather than the latest fashion statement sweeping the hallways of Central High School, the bracelets or "pulseras" mark the handiwork of children and their families living in Nicaragua.
The six students in the Spanish 5 class at Central -- Julia Sigler, Iraida Torres, Joseph Anderle, William Armstrong, Katrina Dmuchowsky and Jonathan Norris -- sold the bracelets to help support these kids.
Over the course of two weeks last month, they sold 141 bracelets and raised $720, which will be given back to the kids through the Pulsera Project, a nonprofit that helps provide employment and economic aid for Nicaraguans.
Spanish teacher Heather Walters said the money can be used to fund 10 scholarships, as farm loans to help purchase livestock or to pay for computers and classes at a school built through the Pulsera Project.
She said she came across the project while searching online and introduced the idea at a football game last summer to some of her students, who jumped at the idea.
"I was trying to figure out how in the world I could connect them to a foreign country outside of Woodstock, something that was authentic and real, and stumbled across this," she said.
Walters said they watched videos of the kids in Nicaragua, many of whom were forced to drop out of school to work at sweatshops and were essentially saved by the project.
Julia said each of the bracelets was sent with a picture of the person who made them.
"I feel like we don't realize how fortunate we actually are living where we do, and there's programs around us like WIC [and] food stamps that help us, and they need us to actually help them because they're literally living on the streets," she said. "We saw videos of how rough their lives are, and going out in the morning at like 4 a.m. just to get milk for their breakfast."
Katrina said the project has allowed her to notice how much the people in the community need help.
"I think we definitely learned more about the culture and everything and how they support each other and the community and how they work together," she said. "And just about giving them more opportunities so they can have a brighter future."
The class also volunteers their language skills to help Spanish-speaking families each Thursday at A Small Hand in Edinburg, an outreach program that helps provide formula, clothing and other supplies for infants in Shenandoah County.
"A lot of people don't realize why it's so valuable to know Spanish," Walters said. "They think, 'Oh, they're here in the United States, they should speak English.' It's not until I think a lot of these students get an opportunity to learn Spanish and speak Spanish with people in the community that they break down those walls and they're a little more empathetic to the situation they're in. And it can go a long way to make everthing better."
Sherando High School is another one of the schools from across the U.S. that is involved in the Pulsera Project, according to the organization's website.
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org