Hawks for Haiti connects students to impoverished nation

SkyView Academy raises money for orphaned and abandoned youth in Haiti


Lauren Meighan started volunteering at the Vertile Foundation — a home for orphaned and abandoned youth in Carrefour, Haiti — in 2010 following the disastrous earthquake that displaced about 1.5 million people.

She has been visiting once or twice a year ever since.

This year, Meighan, an eighth-grade teacher at SkyView Academy in Highlands Ranch, gets to combine two of her passions: her SkyView students and the 22 children of the Vertile Foundation.

From Jan. 23-27, middle school students are raising money for the Vertile Foundation. Rather than calling it a spirit week, SkyView staff have titled it Hawks for Haiti after the school’s mascot.

“I’ve wanted to do something in my school community and connect it to my Haiti community,” said Meighan, 28, who was recently elected as the Vertile Foundation board president.

Meighan first heard about the Vertile Foundation from its founder, Rico Changeux, who she also calls a good friend. The two met in Boulder where Meighan attended college and Changeux ran a dance studio and production company.

“After my mother passed away, I felt that I needed to return to Haiti and support my people in some way,” said Changeux. “I have always believed the Haitian people were strong and resilient, but the kids in the community couldn’t always be helped.”

Changeux grew up in the eight-bedroom home that is now the Vertile Foundation, named after his mother.

“She was a strong and resilient person like my people in Haiti,” Changeux said, “and she, too, loved kids.”

SkyView’s middle school principal, Janet Worley, brainstormed Hawks for Haiti as a way for students to serve individuals outside of their school. Service learning is one of SkyView’s five pillars of foundation. The other pillars are core knowledge, classical college prep, character education and world languages.

“This project allows us to follow up and see change,” Worley said. “My hope is that when students see the change, it will inspire them to make changes in their communities.”

As part of the Hawks for Haiti kick-off assembly, Meighan showed a video of the Vertile house and its residents, who are 3 to 18 years old. For them, the basic needs of life haven’t been easily achievable. Some of the children were dropped off or abandoned by a parent; social services referred others.

“They really appreciate getting to eat and going to school,” Meighan said.

SkyView middle school students set a goal to raise $60 each for a total of $20,000. That amount will pay for two years of education for each child of the Vertile Foundation.

The Vertile house is not a permanent destination for its children, Meighan said. The goal is to prepare them for future opportunities, such as a career.

“We hope to help them get jobs that will make them happy,” Meighan said, “provide them with a reasonable path.”