#LoftyIdeals: Maggie Betkowski ’21 and Rose Potter ’21

Friday, July 31, 2020
Rose Potter ’21 (left) and Maggie Betkowski ’21

Maggie Betkowski ’21 and Rose Potter ’21 have a knack for helping people. Betkowski, a Writing Center Fellow, and Potter, who just completed a year as president of her class, both actively seek out opportunities to give back to the Academy and the Borough of Mercersburg.

When they learned that they wouldn’t be returning to the Academy for the spring term, they each needed to find a way to process that information. “It was the first few weeks of quarantine, and I had just heard we were closing the school for the rest of the year,” says Betkowski. “I realized I was going to be stuck at home and couldn’t do a lot of things I normally would at school to help the Academy community, and being a local in Mercersburg, I’m really able to see the effects corona is having on people.”

For Betkowski, she learned that a family friend in Ohio was doing a fundraiser to collect supplies for the local food pantry, and Betkowski wanted to do the same in Mercersburg. She began contacting individuals in the area who either worked with or volunteered for Maranatha Food Pantry in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, and once she learned that monetary donations would be most helpful, she got to work setting up a website to collect donations and spreading the word to friends and family.

Similar to Betkowski, Potter felt compelled to help the Borough of Mercersburg, even though she lives an hour and a half away in Middleburg, Virginia. “Mercersburg is such a small town, and it is always on my mind how the small businesses like Romeo’s and One North—the places students love so much and go to a lot and I’m sure are a big part of their business—what happens to those companies when we aren’t on campus?” Potter wonders.

She brainstormed possible ways to help and determined that raising money for Romeo’s gift cards to give to local first responders would be a useful way to support the restaurant and also thank first responders for their continued work and dedication during this time.

Both Betkowski and Potter were amazed and humbled by the response their fundraisers received. “I was surprised at not just how many people donated but how generous people were in their donations, especially during a time of such great need,” says Betkowski. On her own, she was able to raise more than $3,000 for the Maranatha Food Pantry, and in cooperation with Mercersburg Academy and the Mercersburg Cares campaign, she raised another $11,000 for four other organizations. 

Betkowski especially wishes to thank faculty member Jim Malone for his support and assistance in determining what food pantries would need and faculty members Erin and Sydney Caretti and their family, who supported her and sponsored an event (the 30-Hour Famine) that brought awareness to her cause.

Potter found that she was able to raise enough money to honor the first responders and help local school children. She worked with Romeo’s to prepare three gift cards for each local first responder, and then the remaining money went toward a school-lunch program that Romeo’s started to feed local students who couldn’t count on a lunch while their schools were closed due to COVID-19.

“A big chunk of my donations actually came from the Mercersburg Class of 1988 Facebook page,” says Potter, “because Kristen Vickery ’88 (mom of Cate ’22 and Thomas ’18) reached out to me and said that her friends used to go to Romeo’s every single Friday night and asked if she could put all the information on the Class of ’88’s Facebook page. She thought a lot of people would want to donate because it was a really special place for them. And they did—people I had never met before and didn’t know me but share the Mercersburg connection and see Romeo’s as a special place just like we do.”

In addition to thanking the Class of 1988, Potter also wishes to thank Romeo’s for partnering with her on this fundraiser and faculty member Chris Howes and former faculty member Leah Rockwell ’97 for helping her spread the word.

While neither Betkowski nor Potter has any idea what the future holds for the Academy or the borough as we continue in these unprecedented times, they do still hold out hope for what lies ahead. After all, they say, that’s why they held their fundraisers, and that’s how they’re getting through the uncertainty that we all find ourselves in.

“Now we are really realizing how much we did take for granted: the time that we had with our friends, the last night of school and the sunrise after the last day of school, or just the conversations in the dining hall,” says Betkowski. “We take those things for granted, so I’m hopeful that the next generation of Mercersburg students over the next four years really does take full advantage of the opportunities we have.”

Potter agrees: “I think us being apart from each other will only make us want to be together again so badly. It already has. I was telling my mom just the other day I’m never going to complain about school ever again. Even if I have too much homework one night, I’m not going to care because at least I’m there with my friends. What does scare me a little bit is some of the special traditions like family-style meals that may have to change, and that’s going to be hard for us to deal with. But that’s the new reality at this point, and whatever it means and whatever precautions we have to take to be on campus, I think it’s totally worth it.”