The annual poinsettia fundraiser returns to Thomas Jefferson High School.
Poinsettias have long been a Christmas tradition. The festive foliage has been a part of the Science Department’s fundraising efforts at Thomas Jefferson High School for over 30 years. This sale has also become an important aspect of the culture at TJ. Every holiday season, students scramble to sell as many poinsettias as they can in hopes of spreading holiday cheer and raising their grades. The poinsettias are supplied by Hardy Boy Plants, a national chain of nurseries. Poinsettias are sold in both red and white variations and cost 15 dollars each. Students have until December 2nd to turn in orders for poinsettias. They are also responsible for picking up the poinsettias when they arrive on December 7th.
Scott Thomas teaches Honors Biology and AP Biology and is the director of the annual fundraiser. Thomas inherited the role around 15 years ago and has been the mastermind behind the operation ever since. Thomas has used his poinsettia money over the years to pay for expensive lab equipment such as microscopes and incubators. “Between my honors biology courses and my AP Biology course, my school budget is enough to basically take care of my honors biology course. It’s not enough for both. I use a lot of that poinsettia money in order to run the labs and activities that we do in class. I have really big lab equipment items that normally I’d never be able to buy.” The biology program at TJ is just one example of a poinsettia sale success story.
Brett Butera, who teaches AP Environmental Science and Earth Science (APES), noted that a big benefit of the poinsettia money is the fact that “any time of the year I can buy supplies.” Usually, the science department receives its funding for the next school year in April. If there was not a poinsettia sale, the teachers would only have that money to buy an entire year’s worth of labs and equipment. The poinsettia money gives elasticity to the science budget, allowing for purchases year-round rather than a set amount of materials and labs for a whole year. For example, though put on hold due to the pandemic, students enrolled in APES were allowed to participate in an ongoing field study focusing on the migration of trees in the Rocky Mountain National Park due to climate change thanks to the funds provided by the poinsettia sale. The money covered a large percentage of the fees necessary to bring students to and from the park.
One of the many things that the pandemic took away from TJ was this fundraiser. Besides the apparent loss of funds for the science department, the culture of the sale had to be put on hold. Once again, COVID-19 created yet another gap in the culture at TJ. Students who were new to TJ last year missed out on both the opportunity to raise their grades and to spread holiday cheer. However, the return of the poinsettia fundraiser means the return of the spirit of the season at TJ. Now, science teachers and students alike can rejoice in the opportunities this annual fundraiser brings.