Senior Project Supports Rocket Totes

Thursday, June 16, 2022
Catherine Shaffer ’22 (right) presents during the Springboard Expo in May.

Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, just feed one.” This is the mantra that Catherine Shaffer ’22 followed as she set out to complete her Food for Thought Springboard senior capstone project where she researched food insecurity and supported Rocket Totes, a meal program in the Tuscarora School District (which includes the borough of Mercersburg).

“When I was coming up with my project, I knew I wanted to focus two of my interests into one project,” says Shaffer, who is the oldest of six children and lives in Davidsonville, MD. “I knew I wanted to focus my project on children. And, as an athlete, my nutritional health is very important to me. So I combined these two ideas to come up with the project on nutritional health for children, focusing mainly on the children who live in poverty and lower-income communities.” 

Every senior at Mercersburg is enrolled in one of two capstone programs: MAPS (Mercersburg’s Advanced Program for Global Studies) or Springboard, and once Shaffer settled on the main driver for her project, it made perfect sense for her to partner with Rocket Totes, a program run through James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg. Rocket Totes provides meals and food for families for a weekend or a long break like summer vacation when children are not in school to receive a free or reduced-price lunch. More than 80 families in the borough of Mercersburg and surrounding areas are currently signed up for this program.

Throughout the course of her project, Shaffer researched food insecurities, volunteered with Rocket Totes to pack lunches for the weekend, and held a bake sale on campus where she raised $174 for the organization. She created a website to show the full scope of what she learned and to encourage others to get involved.

“The only thing I wish I had done better in my project was to emphasize how easy it is to go to James Buchanan High School on a Friday morning to help Rocket Totes,” Shaffer says. “I would highly encourage all students to think about taking this opportunity, because it makes you feel so much better as a person, knowing that you can help ensure that all children can get the nutrition they need when they are not as fortunate as we are.”

At the end of June, Shaffer is headed to the U.S. Naval Academy, and she plans to continue the volunteer work she started at Mercersburg. “While I am in Annapolis, I hope to volunteer for organizations where I can help ensure that I am providing, supporting, and serving families who are less fortunate,” she says. “I also plan to research what the local public schools are doing and to encourage students to work toward helping resolve some of the same issues as Rocket Totes.

“I am so grateful that I chose the topic that I did, and I am so grateful I found Rocket Totes to partner with. When I went to help pack backpacks with them in April, everyone was so sweet and dedicated in their own way to fighting hunger. This project really opened up my heart and willingness to put a smile on other people’s faces. Again, I cannot stress this enough: I encourage other students at Mercersburg and across the country to make a contribution, big or small, because it really brightens up your day and the way you view the world.”