Students surprise science teacher with camp funds

Photo by Benj Salkind

Jim Ellinger, Bellevue College biology instructor, was surprised by two of his former and current students, Kim Williams, BC alumnus, and Anastaysia (Nancy) Lavochina, current student, who spent many months fundraising to donate nearly $2100 to Ellinger’s science camp for children.

Williams and Lavochina have worked through spring quarter to secretly raise money to fund Ellinger. “This particular project was inspired by my son Alexandre Williams who had the opportunity to attend the Bellevue College science camp three consecutive years. At the time he attended, I was unable to afford the fees for the camp, and Dr. Ellinger generously permitted me to work as a volunteer to supplement the tuition,” said Williams.

Now that Williams is an alumnus, she said that she saw this as a good opportunity to give back to the program. She and Lavochina started a now three-person program called Change for Choice, which fundraises for causes. This was the first cause the program raised money for, called Equality in Education, and the next is called Volunteering for Veterans. Change for Choice is made of Williams, Lavochina and volunteer Christopher Moore, but Williams and Lavochina spearheaded this project.

“We stood in the rain outside of Safeway, mowed lawns and pulled weeds in the rain…” said Williams about their fundraising efforts.

Lavochina added, “It took a long time but we had a goal, and we wanted to reach it.” She hand-made hemp beaded bracelets to sell in order to raise the funds as well.

When they raised all the funds, they presented a check to Ellinger on Tuesday, July 31, in his office. Ellinger, who had no idea this fundraising had been going on, was shocked by the gesture. “This is precious,” he said. “Thank you all very much!”

In addition to Williams and Lavochina, David Sandler from Public Relations and Tom Pritchard, the Vice President of Student Services, were also in attendance.

“The way they raised the money was incredible,” said Pritchard.

The money is going towards scholarships for Ellinger’s BC Summer Science Camp for 5th – 7th graders. “We raised money to help out the kids in our community who aren’t financially able to go to your camp,” Lavochina told Ellinger when they presented the check. “It’s a really great camp!”

Ellinger and the Science And Math Institute (SAMI) at BC work together to run the Summer Science Camp, with SAMI managing the advertising, marketing and prizes with Ellinger directing the activities. This year, at almost 48 students and long waitlists, the camp has reached the largest enrollment it has ever seen. The $2100 will go to provide scholarships for students who are enthusiastic about science but unable to pay for the camp themselves.

“That’s going to be almost 10 scholarships,” said Kate Souza, director of SAMI. “It’s going to make a big impact.”

Ellinger went on to say that between 5th and 7th grade was when girls tended to lose their interest in science, and the camp he runs hopes to encourage girls’ interest in science.

“We also run Science Saturdays all through the quarter,” Ellinger added. This program is also aimed at the middle school age group and hopes to keep their interest in science piqued. Science Saturdays are also one of many activities promoted by SAMI, which works on many K-12 science endeavors since its creation by the Science Department in 2007, including the annual Central Sound Regional Science and Engineering Fair, which enjoyed an attendance of 30,000 people last year.

“We try to get kids excited about science,” said Souza.

Ellinger’s camp runs August 13-17 in the S building. More information on the camp is available through the science division website.

On, Williams said, “We must start from within to help those who do without.”