This story originally published in the Peninsula Clarion.

The Nikiski Children’s Fund, a nonprofit set up by Nikiski High School student Carlee Rizzo, is looking to expand its reach to Homer, Kenai, Soldotna and Seward.

Rizzo said the fund has done a lot of good for the Nikiski School, and could have potential in other peninsula schools.

“It would be nice if other schools had this opportunity,” Rizzo said.

In 2015, Rizzo began the project when she was a freshman in high school, and saw that many of her peers could use a helping hand. Both of Rizzo’s parents are teachers, and are among the first in schools to recognize when students are struggling, she said.

“I just saw all these kids with holes in their shoes, or holes in their backpacks,” Rizzo said. “As I got older, one of my friends was living in their car with no money for food. I’m not someone who can just stand by.”

Rizzo coordinates public events, like concerts and an annual softball game between the Nikiski fire department and the Alaska State Troopers, to raise money. The money raised is then made available for teachers to use when they see students who might need help.

The fund has generated $8,000 in the last three years to support the nonprofit’s donations, and an additional $8,000 to provide an annual scholarship.

Rizzo said the fund helps pay for anything a kid might need, like the electric bills of families who need assistance, a driving lesson for a student who can’t afford it, or hats, gloves, coats or boots. Rizzo has even helped fundraise for new school supplies and clothing for a student whose family home burned down in the middle of the night.

The nonprofit needs to raise $3,000 to support the expansion to the peninsula’s other areas. Rizzo set up GoFundMe account that has already earned nearly $800.

If Rizzo is able to raise the funds she needs to expand, the money will be available to other peninsula schools by next semester, she said.

In addition to expanding the fund to other schools, Rizzo is setting up an annual scholarship. Every year, a junior in high school will have the chance to win the $1,000 scholarship if they choose to take on the coordinating role Rizzo has been in since the nonprofit’s beginnings. Rizzo said each scholarship recipient will train the next.

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