MAYVILLE - Some say that the four years of high school make up the best years of your life. Based on what happened at CLCS on Friday, it's likely the students there would agree.
As the students of CLCS funneled into the gymnasium for their annual homecoming pep rally, the air was abuzz with excitement. Many of the students were wearing homemade togas and some donned facepaint.
As they took their seats, their anticipation for what was to come was palpable. In just a few minutes, they would watch classmate Aili Makuch shave the head of Josh Liddell, CLCS secondary principal.
CLCS Pep Rally
Makuch is currently battling pediatric cancer, and as a result of her disease, has lost all of her hair.
Though Makuch attended the pep rally for the purpose of shaving her principal's head, she had been limited in the amount of time she's been able to spend in school due to the complications associated with treating her disease.
In response to Makuch's battle with cancer, the students of CLCS have selflessly and unequivocally supported her in her battle.
Josh Liddell, secondary principal for CLCS and Aili Makuch are pictured.
P-J photos by Remington Whitcomb
To help the students of CLCS understand more about what Makuch has dealt with and will deal with going forward in her battle with cancer, they were addressed by a number of staff from Roswell Park Cancer Institute this past Monday. During that address, the point was made that the most important thing the students of CLCS could do for Makuch was be there for her when she needed them, and that she needs strength, not sympathy.
Since that day, the students of CLCS have not only supported Makuch with strength, but they have also raised $2,700 to help her family with the expenses of treating her disease.
Liddell pledged that he would shave his head if the school raised over $1,000, and since they nearly tripled that, he lived up to his word.
"We have been overwhelmed by the generosity, thoughtfulness and solidarity of our student body, teachers and the Chautauqua Lake community in supporting Aili and her amazing family," said Liddell. "It is a truly remarkable feat to raise over $2,700 in just a few days. Even more impressive is the positive attitude that Aili has displayed throughout her battle against cancer. Aili has been inspirational and has educated us all about the power behind possessing a strong faith and positive spirit."
"The Chautauqua Lake Central School District community is inspired by Aili's positive spirit and tremendous courage," said an official CLCS statement about the event. "This is validated by the profound care and outpouring of support by our students, staff, and the community at large. We are proud of everyone and particularly proud of Aili."
After Aili finished shaving the head of Liddell, a large group of students swarmed her. Exclamations such as "we love you," and, "you are amazing" could be heard through the cheering that reverberated off the gymnasium walls. Some students in the mob had tears in their eyes.
"It's so nice to know our school can pull together and support Aili and raise this money for her," said Taylor Lane, student. "She's my best friend, so it feels amazing to know that we can do this for her. She is so strong so brave. It is impossible not to look up to her."
"Aili has inspired all of us," said Michael Parker, student. "It's wonderful we can be there for her when she needs our help."
And though the students' hearts were in it for Aili, they all agreed that watching their principal have his head shaved served as a motivating factor as well.
"It was so funny to watch (Liddell) have all his hair shaved off," said Kelsey Breads, student. "It's awesome to know that he'd allow something like that to happen if we worked as hard as we could to help Aili. It was a wonderful tribute to her and the battle she's fighting."
"It was really funny," said Jenna Einink, student. "We all enjoyed watching it happen and it was really a kind gesture on his part."
Though almost every high school in the country has a homecoming pep rally, most pep rallies plot different grade levels against each other to compete to see who has the most spirit. However, CLCS's pep rally exhibited a different kind of spirit: unity as a school.
"Aili struggle has not only brought us closer to her, but closer to each other as well," said Lane. "The fact that we were able to pull together to help Aili has made us feel more like a family than just classmates."
"I think this event has shown how we can all work together for a bigger cause," said Breads.
"A lot of people broke down at the rally today," said Parker. "It has brought us all closer and has made us understand each other a lot better. We appreciate each other now because we've been able to unite despite our differences for something that is bigger than us at an individual level."
And going forward, the students of CLCS hope that other school districts in the county, state, and country will look at their example and find unity in a cause that is bigger than them on an individual level, as well.
"I really think this will take an effect on different schools and on the community," said Miranda Williams, student. "I hope people will look at this and think to themselves, 'if they can do it, so can I.' Even if there isn't a specific person in need, hopefully other communities will look at this and find a cause to rally around."