Yes, you read that right. One hundred eighty thousand dollars. For charity. In two months. And I'm lucky to say that I got to be a part of it.

Last year, I was a senior in high school trying to balance college applications and five AP classes and extracurriculars all at once. I had too much to do, but somehow my number one commitment was student council. Why is that, you ask?

Since 2004, my high school's student council had orchestrated an annual charity ball to raise money for local nonprofits. At first, it had just been a nice thing to do, but as the years went on, the amount of money raised kept increasing. When I was a freshman, they raised $92,000 for Interfaith Food Shuttle between October and December, and I remember being convinced that they could ever beat that. (Spoiler alert! They did!) All the people I met on council told me it was a life-changing experience, and I wanted in.

I ended up joining my junior year, and I realized that the people I was working with were some of the most dedicated and passionate kids I'd ever known. Although we set lofty monetary goals for ourselves each year (100k, 120k, and 150k my respective sophomore, junior, and senior years), we didn't define ourselves based on the money (even though we made, like, CRAZY amounts). What really mattered to us was the service. We spent time with people in homeless shelters, we volunteered in food pantries, we canvassed in our neighborhoods, and we informed our community about our cause. It was developing into a school-wide effort, with fundraising events like kickball tournaments and coffee sales to engage the student body to help out.

Of course, it was super stressful at the time, but now that I'm not doing it anymore I see how much I miss it. There's nothing like working towards a mutual goal with a bunch of people that want to achieve it just as badly as you that can motivate you as much as Charity Ball did. Our drive was reflected in the way we talked to our peers about donating or educated strangers on how impactful our contribution would be, or in the joy we expressed at the final showing of the check. I was mostly amazed that we were just a group of kids that cared enough about the world to not give up, even if the deadline was 10 days away and we still needed to raise 60 thousand dollars.

Last year's Charity Ball sticks in the back of my head like it was yesterday. Everyone was nervous, but we knew we would be proud no matter how much we made. The true meaning of Charity Ball was that an entire community- our school, other schools, other school systems, local companies, people from other states, or other countries even- was so willing to drop their differences for this one thing that benefited the greater good. I can't pretend to say it could've been done without the support from our friends, families, and teachers: it couldn't have been. Every person involved in the process gave their own part, and that's the reason we were able to pull it off.

Recently, I spoke with the current student body vice president. She thinks of me as her role model, but in all honesty, I'm way more inspired by her. I can tell she genuinely cares about the organization they're working with this year and wants to help as much as she can. It really touches me that they keep doing this year after year not because they necessarily have something to prove, but really out of the goodness of their hearts. And in a world where we're fed terrible news every day, the stuff that they do gives me a lot of hope.

The kids aren't just alright- they're awesome.