The Students of the Year Program is a seven-week initiative in which select high school students from around the country participate in a fundraising competition to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). This year, PMHS sophomores Margot Wies and Sophia Shulzenko are fundraising for the program, becoming the first-ever Pelham participants.
The team’s goal is to raise $60,000 between Feb. 7 and March 28. Although it is a big number to reach by the the end of the campaign, Wies feels confident in the cause and sees all the opportunities that Student of the Year has to offer: “Not only is this campaign a great way to support LLS and their life-saving work, but it’s a great leadership opportunity for me. Students receive scholarships based on their fundraising and awareness efforts. With my team being the first participating from Pelham, Students of the Year will also make a great imprint on our community for the future.”
The young team representing Pelham is passionate about raising money and awareness for the LLS along with its mission to cure various blood cancers; in fact, both girls have personal connections to the cause.
Shulzenko is fundraising in honor of her mother, Karen, and in memory of her mother’s best friend Candice. When Shulzenko was only two years old, her mom was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Although the elder Shulzenko was fortunate enough to be cured and has been healthy for thirteen years now, her friend Candice lost the battle to lymphoma at 45 years of age.
“Candy was the strongest person I have ever met in my entire life,” said Shulzenko. “She fought through each tremendous obstacle that was thrown her way and had a smile on her face the entire time. Her life was a battle, and she refused to give up, yet she still could not make it. There are far too many stories like Candice’s and not enough like my mother’s. This is why it is crucial for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to find more effective treatments, but it cannot be done without help.”
Wies is fundraising in memory of her cousin, Alan Ostrow, who lost the battle to Myeloid leukemia at twenty years old, after six long years of fighting. Although Alan’s family searched for proper resources, there was a lack of time and information.
With enough support and determination, Shulzenko and Wies are looking to help others in similar situations as their loved ones. The students are extremely proud to be raising critical dollars in honor of patients who are currently battling or are in remission from any form of blood cancer. Every dollar raised is not only a vote for the Pelham Team to be named Students of the Year, but it is also a call for attention to dangerous blood cancers such as leukemia, which is the most common form of cancer in children and teenagers.
All donations to the fundraiser will be tax deductible. They will go towards LLS-funded research and will help provide critical information and support for patients, as well as advocacy for laws to ensure that patients can access the care and treatments they need.
For more information about the team’s campaign, visit their website.