Thursday, January 27, 2005

Good Packers (the other kind)

We never did acquire the New Yorker vibe that seems to plague so many intellectuals. We read the New Republic instead, a decision we have regretted many, many times over the years, especially after Tom Toles left that magazine for syndication elsewhere. But we digress.

Reader Claire S. sent us this item from the "Talk of the Town," which has always been our favorite section, other than the cartoons, of course. Her kid attends the school in question:




DEPT. OF EDUCATION
SAFE JOURNEY
Issue of 2005-01-24
Posted 2005-01-17

The world of New York City private schools is often portrayed as a cutthroat, almost Hobbesian place, but there is a tenderhearted side to it as well. These days, community service and sensitivity training are as central to most private-school curricula as math and geography. At Packer Collegiate, in Brooklyn Heights, for instance, the fifth-grade bake sale, which had originally been intended to benefit a less fortunate school in Tanzania, was jointly dedicated to Tanzania and relief for tsunami victims. And when Marco Sylla, the Packer school’s security guard, or “hall master,” and an Army reservist, was called up for active duty in December, it seemed only natural that the school would offer him the continued use of his Packer laptop, for keeping in touch, and that the Parent Association would buy him a going-away present—an iPod. One upper schooler loaded the device with classic rock, and several dozen students presented Sylla with farewell cards. At a school assembly, he received a two-minute standing ovation.

To some Packer parents, however, this was not appreciation enough. In his two years on the job, Sylla had learned the names of all nine-hundred-odd students. (“He has an aura of authority, but also of gentleness,” one mother said.) What’s more, his leaving brought the harsh realities of the war in Iraq close to home—even if, for the time being, Sylla’s unit has been assigned to Germany. (He shipped out last week.) Lauren Glant, mother of Willy (sixth grade) and Cullen (third grade), remembered reading that some troops had not been adequately supplied with protective gear, so she came up with an idea: to buy Sylla his own suit of body armor.

Glant turned to Michelle Fuchs, another third-grade parent, and the co-chair of the school’s diversity and multiculturalism panel, for help with organizing a fund-raising drive. “At first, I said, ‘What? I beg your pardon?’” Fuchs recalled the other day. Body armor is a far cry from brownies. Fuchs signed on, and the two mothers sought the help of the Packer head of school, Bruce Dennis, who sent notice of the armoring cause to the school’s e-mail-distribution list.

To be sure, there were skeptics. “Who’s actually going to purchase the body armor?” one middle-school mother asked. “Somebody said it costs about fifteen hundred dollars. Is that full body armor? Or just a vest?” She added, “From the little bit of research that I did, I thought all the soldiers on the ground in Iraq were actually going to be supplied with body armor now, but maybe that’s not true. I don’t know.”

In the end, generosity prevailed. After one day, the parents had raised twenty-three hundred dollars. A hundred and thirty families have now contributed. And students, too, have chipped in. “Whatever I have left tomorrow after lunch, I’m not going to be spending it this weekend—I’ve got a busy weekend—so I’m just going to drop it in the folder,” a tenth grader named Matt said the other day.

Now comes the hard part: shopping. “The particular kind of armor that’s actually being given out by the Army right now is called the Interceptor,” Glant explained. The Interceptor Multi-Threat Body Armor System, made of Kevlar, is capable of stopping 7.62-mm. rounds. “They’re only selling it to the Army,” Glant said. “But there are several different types of body armor that you can get either over the Web or at police-supply stores. You know, pretty high-level bulletproof vests. And then there are various inserts and attachments you can get.”

The next day, Glant sent a follow-up e-mail: “I am becoming a much greater expert on body armor than I ever anticipated. I can toss around acronyms like O.T.V. and sapi like a pro (almost)!” O.T.V. stands for Outer Tactical Vest. sapi stands for Small Arms Protective Inserts.

Fuchs, meanwhile, has been getting advice from three relatives who have military experience. “I got a lot of detail about the difference between a body vest and a bulletproof vest,” she said. Her relatives recommended some accessories, too. “Protective gear for his ankles and knees, his wrists and elbows,” she said. “If you are engaging in conflict and you need extras, those are the extras.”

For now, the parents are still awaiting Sylla’s measurements, and news of whether he will in fact be stationed in Iraq. If there’s any money left over, they plan to provide Sylla with various sundries: phone cards, deodorant, scorpion powder. “I hear that scorpion powder is important to have in Iraq!” Glant said.

“You know, in all good will, we just want to inundate him with everything and send him off and hope for the best,” Fuchs said. There are, however, limits to the Packer community’s benevolence. “If they don’t have armored vehicles, we can’t help him with that,” Fuchs said.

— Ben McGrath


Claire relates: "I told Marco that he HAS to come back (sigh) -- he's the prime tester for all of my marshmallow and other candy/baking experiments!)".

Kudos to the Packers for their generosity. We wish Mr. Sylla well, and hope for a world where there weren't literally bake sales for body armor.

1 Comments:
At 3:42 AM, Blogger Google Page Rank 6 said...

Want more clicks to your Adsense Ads on your Blog?

Then you have to check out my blog. I have found a FREE and Legitimate way that will increase your earnings.

Come Check us out. How to Boost Your AdSense Revenue

 

Post a Comment

<< Home