More than just an assignment

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School is out, but a group of Stillwater Area High School students are taking a class assignment one step further.

The students are organizing a benefit to raise money for Falling Whistles, a non-profit organization that helps children affected by rebel armies in Congo. The students have put together the Capital City Music Fest, which will be held on Sunday in Phalen Park Amphitheater in St. Paul. The music festival will feature local hip-hop artists, food and local companies.

The students were first inspired to specifically help children in the Democratic Republic of Congo after they watched the "Kony 2012" video, which was released in March and has more than 100 million views on YouTube and Vimeo.

The 30-minute documentary was released to draw attention to the Lord’s Resistance Army and it’s leader, Joseph Kony. The Lord’s Resistance Army operates in central Africa and Kony is known for using thousands of children as soldiers in his rebel army.

"We were really inspired and wanted to help the children in Congo when the Kony video came out and shared the stories of what the children had to go through," said Rachel Bursik, one of the student organizers.

The idea to host a musical benefit came from an business plan assignment some of the students had in an Introduction to Business class at SAHS. The students started with the idea to create a T-shirt design and sell the shirts at school, but took the project a step further by organizing the benefit.

Chi Moua, another student organizer, said the company designing the students’ T-shirts encouraged them to "expand their horizons and dream bigger."

"It started from a class assignment, but it become more than just ‘homework’ because we spent so much time out of school planning and organizing this event," Moua said.

The students hope to raise $10,000 for the organization. The group has been working tirelessly for two months while juggling multiple busy schedules. Despite the hectic schedules, the students were even able to secure several large sponsors for the event, including Mall of America, Just Kidding Clothing, Lake Elmo Bank, Tire Pros and the Royal Bank of Canada.

"We only had about two months to plan such a huge event, so there was definitely a lot of blood, sweat, and tears put into this project," Moua said.

The benefit is 3:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Cost is $15 and $10 for students who present a student ID. Since it’s Father’s Day, fathers get in the benefit for free.

"We are so lucky to live here and have a lot of opportunities at our finger tips and those kids in the Congo deserve the same," Bursik said. "No kid should have to see war, hold a gun that’s bigger than them or not get the chance at just being a kid."