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Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas Sponsors Three District 227 Students to Attend Operation Snowball

Over 100 District 227 students attended the 34th Annual Operation Snowball retreat at Camp Manitoqua in Frankfort, Illinois, last weekend.

Among the participants were three students-one from each campus, who received sponsorship with registration paid in full from Superintendent Dr. Johnnie Thomas.  Dr. Thomas says he wants to inspire other leaders and educators in the district to pay it forward.

“After learning about Snowball, I felt deeply moved by how it impacts the lives of our students. Our students should not be left out of opportunities because of financial issues. This sponsorship allowed three students, with different circumstances, the opportunity to meet new friends, be inspired, and to learn more about themselves,” said Dr. Thomas.

After Malik Griffith, a senior at Rich South learned that he was one of three students to receive this sponsorship, he was speechless.

“I am thankful and grateful that I was selected to attend Snowball,” said Griffith. “Thank you so much, Dr. Thomas.”

Although this was a weekend full of activities, cell phones were prohibited.  Many students had no choice but to step out of their comfort zones.   Marteria Johnson, a sophomore at Rich Central, described the experience as one of her most memorable moments.

“Coming out of my shell to speak with so many people I haven’t seen before was amazing. Usually, I am reserved and I never reach out to anyone. This time, I actually went out to speak to people,” said Johnson.

Isaiah Newsum, a freshman at Rich East, and also a sponsored recipient, was encouraged to attend Snowball because his older siblings spoke highly of the program.  He hopes to participate in the next Snowball, not as an attendee, but as a teen staff member.

“It was a great experience, and the staff kept recommending that I should become a member next year,” said Newsum.

Teen staff members spend months preparing for the retreat. They’re allowed to create skits, plan team building projects, and moderate group discussions.

“This is my sixth time at Snowball,” said Michael Rodgers, a senior at Rich Central. “As a staff member, I learned leadership skills. I learned how to run a small group to a very large group. And now, I am a teen staff director.”

For three decades, Snowball has completely transformed the lived of many students. This event has allowed them to make positive life decisions, and build healthy relationships with their peers. 

“Our ultimate goal is to inspire our participants to keep the snowball rolling. To take the lessons that they’re leaning over the weekend back to their schools, back to their home, back to their daily lives, and just keep moving that forward,” said Katie Stadt, Director of Operation Snowball.


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