Students put on Puerto Rico Benefit Concert


Maria Newton

Juniors Harper Stewart and Dani Fischer lead the class in planning the Puerto Rico benefit concert. The concert will be held on Dec 7 and has been planned entirely by Amy Van Matre-Woodward’s Honors Environmental Sustainability class. “Dani and I spearheaded the project, but now our classmates are super involved as well,” Stewart said. “We have people designing logos, doing research and slideshows and figuring out set up.”

 After the devastation of Hurricane Maria, students in science teacher Amy Van Matre-Woodward’s honors environmental sustainability class began planning a benefit concert to help the Puerto Rico victims.

The course focuses on helping the Earth and preserving its natural resources. Students learn through creative projects, such as cleaning up mini oil spills made in beakers.

“It just so happened that we were in the [water sustainability] unit when all the hurricanes hit, [specifically] hurricane Maria that devastated Puerto Rico,” Van Matre-Woodward said.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September 2017, knocking out the electricity and diminishing access to clean water on the island.

“I do not think that people realize how much the people of Puerto Rico and elsewhere are still struggling to acquire basic things like water and electricity,” honors environmental sustainability student junior Harper Stewart said. “About half of the population in Puerto Rico does not have potable drinking water.”

When Van Matre-Woodward proposed that the class try and help Puerto Rico, the students began brainstorming possible charitable acts. Stewart along with junior and fellow classmate Dani Fischer came up with their idea outside of school.

“The general agreement in our class was that we wanted to do something big that would benefit charity, but also bring us together as a community,” Fischer said. “All of a sudden this idea started forming of putting on a show for Puerto Rico.”

Stewart and Fischer then pitched the idea to the class. Although the class wanted to put on the concert as well, Fischer admitted there have been a lot of hoops to jump through.

“It was about two days of us sitting and wondering if this was actually going to be a thing. Then we went to the administrators and asked them how easy this would be to pull off,” Fischer said. “There is a lot of paperwork.”

I’m glad we can help and I’m blown away by the students’ initiative in assisting Puerto Rico.”

— Van Matre-Woodward

Although Van Matre-Woodward was the one who was mostly in charge of all of the paperwork, Fischer and Stewart are leading the class through the rest of the planning process.

“Van Matre-Woodward is intentionally taking a step back and allowing students to take the lead,” Fischer said.

All proceeds from the concert will go to an organization called United for Puerto Rico which provides direct monetary funds to Puerto Rico to rebuild their infrastructure by providing electricity, clean water, help for small businesses and information about available government assistance.

“It’s amazing how passionate and on top of it everyone is,” Stewart said.

The student-led concert will feature student musicians from the St. Louis area. One band that is performing, Cats with Soup, includes Fischer along with other West High students Ryan Crowley, Justin Cupps, Nayeon Ryu, Meghan Stanfield and Noah Wright.

“Honestly, at first it just seemed the most fun, something that would be interesting and different to plan,” Stewart said. “However, as more and more students voiced their interest and got involved, it became clear that having a benefit concert would [be] the one that got the most students involved.”

Fischer and Stewart depended on each other in the long planning process. Stewart’s primary focus was organizing the event using spreadsheets and Google Docs, and Fischer used her musical knowledge to recruit bands to play in the concert.

“Dani is a godsend! She not only knows her stuff when it comes to different bands and music, but also just calming me down and making sure I do not go crazy throughout this,” Stewart said. “Honestly could not have asked for a better balance.”

Van Matre-Woodward is glad her students were motivated to help the people in Puerto Rico. The concert will be held on Dec. 7 in the school cafeteria from 7-9 p.m. and admission will be $5.

“It has to be the right group of people to do this kind of thing,” Van Matre-Woodward said. “I’m glad we can help and I’m blown away by the students’ initiative in assisting Puerto Rico.”