With compassion, empathy and a desire to have fun, the students, staff and faculty of Wallenpaupack South Elementary School continue to play a large roll in turning a dire, negative situation into a hopeful, positive one.


With compassion, empathy and a desire to have fun, the students, staff and faculty of Wallenpaupack South Elementary School continue to play a large roll in turning a dire, negative situation into a hopeful, positive one.

During the holiday break, the family home of sixth-grade student Devin Knowles was devastated by a fire. Knowles explained that he, his mother, his 16-year-old brother and the family’s two dogs lived in the house. At the time of the fire, his brother and the two dogs were at home.  Knowles’s brother was burned in the fire and required skin grafts, and one of the two dogs died in the fire. The home and the family’s possessions were destroyed, and until recently, the family was separated by temporary living accommodations.

 A resilient young man with bright eyes, Knowles said, “The only reason I’m sad is because my dog died. Everything is replaceable, except my dog.”  

Knowles’s optimistic and sensible attitude may likely be due to the help that he and his family are receiving from his peers, the school and the community.

One of Knowles’s fellow sixth-graders, Leo Cichinsky, was responsible for finding the family a new home.

Cichinsky explained that his dad owns a rental home that was vacant at the time of the fire, so he asked his dad to rent the home to Knowles’s family.

“My dad was shocked that I came up with the idea,” Cichinsky confided. But, he said, his dad didn’t hesitate once the concept was presented.

Two other sixth-grade classmates, Natalie Christopher and Nicki Mann, followed the example set by the faculty and staff, who were already donating items such as winter coats and other clothing to the family. Natalie and Nicki, who are both student council members, came up with the idea of holding a Pajama Day fund raiser on Friday, January 18. The school’s more than 400 kindergarten through sixth-grade students, and the faculty and staff, were invited to wear their comfy pajamas to school for the day in return for a $1 donation to help  Knowles’s family.

Christopher and Mann both agreed that they empathized with the family, imagining how horrible losing all of one’s possessions would be.

“They didn’t have anything left. We wanted to get money that they can buy things with,” said Mann.     

“And we also wanted to make it fun,” added Christopher.

William Valentine, the student council advisor, and Argyro Paspalas, sixth-grade teacher, said they weren’t surprised that the students were so intent upon  helping Knowles.

“This group is always wanting to do something for someone,” Valentine said. “They are very giving.”

“Many have been together since kindergarten,” Paspalas added. “They are good kids and we’re very proud of them.”

As the school day began on January 18, pajama-clad supporters of Knowles and his family could be seen throughout the hallways. One little supporter was spied entering the main office not only in her pajamas, but with a large bag of donations for Knowles’s family that was added to the many other donations that have been brought to the school.

“It’s really nice,” Knowles said. “It makes me feel happy that everyone’s chipping in.”

An account has been set up for the family at the Dime Bank for monetary donations. For more information about clothing donations, call Wallenpaupack South Elementary School at (570) 676-3335.