Centennial students reach out to classmate with spirit

Jazmine Payne, in red, and Kelly Clinton present Jaycob Ratzlaff and his mother, Jolene Wehmeyer, a check for $2,794.79 on Jan. 31. (J. Bart Rayniak)
Jazmine Payne, in red, and Kelly Clinton present Jaycob Ratzlaff and his mother, Jolene Wehmeyer, a check for $2,794.79 on Jan. 31. (J. Bart Rayniak)

For years, students of Centennial Middle School in the West Valley School District have connected their Spirit Week to community outreach.

Last year, the Associated Student Body picked the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery as beneficiary.

This year, students chose a cause much closer to their hearts. They decided to donate the proceeds to the family of their friend and classmate, eighth-grader Jaycob Ratzlaff. The students raised $2,794.79 to help Ratzlaff’s family with his medical bills and other needs they may have.

Ratzlaff has Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a painful condition that causes his joints to become dislocated easily.

“Just looking at him, you wouldn’t know there is anything wrong with him,” said Tammy Rogers, a counselor at the school.

Rogers said that some days Ratzlaff must use a wheelchair to get around.

Spirit Week at Centennial means students can dress up during theme days. This year, they picked theme days that related to Ratzlaff.

There was Blue Day when everyone wore his favorite color. He really likes math, so there was Nerd Day. He’s a sports fan, so there was Sports Day and students paid a dollar to wear a hat – something they don’t ordinarily get to do at school.

There was also Ugly Sweater Day.

“That one had nothing to do with Jaycob,” Rogers said.

Students collected donations in the mornings and they held a Glow Dance, complete with black lights and glow sticks, Friday afternoon. Rogers said about half of the school participated.

One day during lunch there was pie throwing when students could pay a dollar to throw a pie – actually a paper plate filled with whipped cream – at a teacher or an ASB student.

Rogers said they raised $100 in a half an hour for the chance to nail a teacher in the face with a pie.

Along with the fundraising projects, the students learned about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome to understand what their classmate lives through every day.

During the morning news show – a student produced news program that is broadcast throughout the school in the mornings – students watched a video of an interview with Jaycob to help answer questions students may have. They put up posters. The ASB officers also talked to their classmates during first period about Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

On Jan. 31, leadership students presented his mother, Jolene Wehmeyer, with a check.

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