Mellica Askari essay
The Plano West High School Orchestra is ranked the number one orchestra in the state of Texas, consistently topping the charts against thousands of high school orchestras. The Plano West football team, however, has just completed its third season without winning a single game. To my surprise, our orchestra has significantly less funding from the district despite the merit and recognition that it brings to the school. Since we are so well known across the state, we are given many opportunities throughout the year to travel and perform, which costs money that exceeds our school budget. I, along with the rest of my fellow musicians, have to fundraise multiple times a year with the same frozen foods, chocolate bars, and gift cards. While it is a somewhat effective way to raise money, students and consumers get burned out from buying the same products that will just get freezer burns or collect dust.
A couple of years ago, a few students came up with the idea for the orchestra to host an event called Asian Fest, where we come together and celebrate Asian culture while displaying students’ hidden talents. We sell tickets for a flat $10, bringing in a substantial amount of revenue that covers the cost of the whole event. We found a way to turn this into a fundraiser for the orchestra too, by selling raffle tickets for some amazing student and business-donated prizes. Raffle tickets were $2 each, which increased someone’s chances of getting something like an iPad, Apple Watch, Hallmark gift basket, or a gift certificate to a local spa. With these incredibly generous donations, people attending Asian fest were incentivized to buy as many raffle tickets as they could. Orchestra officers, like myself, had to sell at least 20 tickets each; however, we found ourselves continuously restocking to meet such high demands. We would sell an average of about 8 tickets per person, but some people would buy as many as 200 to try and guarantee themselves a prize. We surpassed the level of paying ourselves back for the costs of the event and turned Asian fest into our most successful fundraiser yet.
Being able to financially take advantage of every opportunity given to us, we have reached our highest potential as an orchestra. Although the arts aren’t as culturally valued in Texas as football, the power of raffle tickets allowed us to break past those boundaries and show everyone what we’re capable of. With this, our school and our community started taking us more seriously and called out the district for insufficient funding to those who deserve it. I got to see an underappreciated organization finally get the recognition it deserved, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible fundraising we did with the Asian Fest raffle ticket drawing. We’re no longer the introverted bookworms who spend hours a day mastering our instruments and studying for our AP classes. We’re dedicated, hardworking, and persistent individuals who believe in the power of community to achieve the impossible.
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