MCHS-Rider and Mayer

Anna Ryder and Willow Mayer are raising funds to build a primary school in a less fortunate area. The two raised more than $300 selling ice cream at Taste of the Mountains, the first of many fundraisers they plan to host.

Two local seniors are hoping to pay forward their education by building a school in a less fortunate area.

Madison County High School and Blue Ridge Virtual Governor’s School (BRVGS) students Willow Mayer and Anna Ryder said they’ve both been very fortunate when it comes to their education and they’d like to pass that along by helping others kids like them.

“We feel that it is important that kids all over the world, no matter where they live or their financial background, have access to quality education,” they said.

Because of this, they’ve partnered with buildOn for their senior project. Seniors in the BRVGS program are required to perform an act of community service. At first, the girls said they wanted to take a trip to the Dominican Republic to build houses for those in need. However, they learned about buildOn and that was it for them. BuildOn is a global non-profit organization that helps break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education and has partnered with villages for nearly three decades to build more than 1,200 primary schools in Nicaragua, Haiti, Malawi, Nepal and three West African countries. More than 150,000 students are served by these schools.

“Something that drew us into this project was our passion for helping others, especially those in need,” Mayer and Ryder said. “Neither of us have had any experience with a project of this type or scale. Living in a small town, it is often difficult to see the bigger picture or realize ways that we can benefit other communities. As a result, we have only participated in smaller scale fundraiser and community service projects, but we wanted to change that this year.”

Through the project, the two hope to help build a school, provide education to the less fortunate, be exposed to a new culture and way of life, leave an impact on a new community and instill hope in that community, plus raise awareness of the need for better education in third world countries.

Building a school comes with a hefty pricetag--$30,000, although it’s much less than the millions of dollars needed to build a school in the United States. The money goes to buildOn for service materials and labor costs. If Mayer and Ryder aren’t able to raise the full amount on their own, they will be paired with another team, or teams, that also did not raise the full amount. The money will then be combined to raise the necessary funds to build the school.

But it’s not just about raising money. Mayer and Ryder said they plan to put in some sweat equity as well.

“We are both planning to travel to Nicaragua next year to help build the school hands on,” they said. “Once we arrive, we would be assigned a host family to live with until the school is complete.”

To jumpstart their project, the girls set up a booth at last month’s Taste of the Mountains street festival. They raised more than $300 in that one day. They also have plans to meet with local businesses to seek donations and additional fundraiser locations. Exact dates are forthcoming.

In the meantime, those interested in contributing to the school project can do so online by visiting Donations can also be made to Mayer and Ryder directly or mailed to buildOn Inc, attention Finance Department, 1111 Summer Street, Suite 602A, Stamford, CT 06905. Checks should be made out to buildOn with “Willow and Anna 2020” in the memo line. Mayer and Ryder ask that they be alerted to donations mailed in so they can alert the organization.

In addition, the students are seeking volunteers for fundraisers as well as fundraising ideas. For more information, contact Mayer and Ryder at

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