Marissa Matecka realizes being away from home during the holidays can be a lonely experience.
That is why the Butler County teenager has mobilized Butler High and Butler Intermediate High schools to brighten the holidays for troops overseas.
This is the second year she has organized a holiday card collection that is distributed to troops overseas and in hospitals by the American Red Cross.
"There are so many troops that don't get anything for Christmas. I thought it would be nice to do," said the 17-year-old senior from Fenelton.
Marissa initiated the idea shortly before Christmas last year and was able to get 1,258 cards. This year, she started shortly after the school year began and had already surpassed last year's card collection in early November.
Today is the last day she is collecting the Christmas cards, and they will be sent to the Red Cross on Friday.
Carrie Morgan-Davis, assistant principal at Butler High School, said the district was happy to help in the effort.
"It's always a little bit of a surprise when kids latch onto something," she said. Ms. Morgan-Davis said the district has always tried to encourage philanthropic projects.
The assistant principal said pupils have responded well to Marissa's project making cards during their downtime in school.
"It's been wonderful. We have office aides and they have been steadily working on their cards when their other work is finished," she said.
Ms. Morgan-Davis said they even set aside time the day after Veteran's Day to allow the entire student body to make cards for the drive.
Marissa said she has been overwhelmed by the response. She said some homerooms have turned in 500 to 700 cards each.
She said she wanted to take on a project involving the military since joining the school's ROTC program four years ago.
"It's an elective at the high school and it's something I really enjoy," she said of the ROTC program.
Marissa said she will graduate in 2014 and intends to join the Army Reserves as she studies to be a nurse in college.
Laure Cioffi, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.