Marquette University High School students successfully canned their principal, Jeff Monday, on Feb. 15. Well, not in the literal sense, but they did effectively oust him from his office.

cansMarquette University High School freshman Thomas Van Bibber and principal Jeff Monday look over cans and boxes of food in his office on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Approximately 3,000 items were collected in the food drive organized by Van Bibber for the Hunger Task Force. All food items were placed in Monday’s office in order to drive the principal out of the office for lack of space to work. (Catholic Herald photo by Ernie Mastroianni)Rows of non-perishable foods lined Monday’s shelves, desk and windowsill. In fact, so much food was stacked in the room, there was no place for the principal to work.

The canning was the result of a school-wide food drive, spearheaded by freshman Thomas Van Bibber, to collect non-perishable items for the Hunger Task Force. The event was part of the Milwaukee school’s annual Winter Torch Week which included other activities, such as a special lunch day, dress-up days and a semi-formal dance.

“Our mission was simple,” Van Bibber said. “Motivate the students into contributing canned items by storing the donations in Mr. Monday’s office, rendering his office uninhabitable. We wanted to make this a fun activity, yet one that had the benefit of keeping in mind those in need during the winter season.”

The idea stemmed from the school’s Conclave (student council). Fortunately, for the students, the principal was good-natured and went along with the request to store the items in his office.

According to Monday, it only took four days to successfully “can the principal.”

“I was surprised by the amount of food that was collected in such a short period of time,” he said. “They donated over 3,000 non-perishable food items. The project really showed the generosity of the students of MUHS and their commitment to fight hunger in the Milwaukee community. While giving to the Hunger Task Force, it was fun for the students to see if they could really oust me from office. They also enjoyed seeing me work from the halls of the school.”

While Van Bibber had high expectations that his fellow students would participate, he had no idea how successful the food drive would be. The idea of forcing the principal from his workspace seemed to motivate the students.

“There was a lot of buzz about it around school, but I was shocked by the amount of participation and the students’ willingness to remember those in need,” said Van Bibber.

To add more enthusiasm to the project, the Conclave contacted the Hunger Task Force with their idea. In turn, the non-profit charitable organization turned to social networking and You Tube to spread the word about MUHS creative means to help others. Video footage shows an ousted Monday sitting at a table in the hallway working on his laptop computer, while his office became a temporary food storage facility.

“They were thrilled that young people got involved,” said Van Bibber. “They posted status updates of our generosity on the Hunger Task Force Facebook page each day, along with the photos we sent them.”

While Van Bibber is uncertain how many people will be served by their efforts, he anticipates that many people who are going through rough times will receive needed assistance.

“I feel it was a complete success,” he said. “Our principal was a good sport and the students were great for participating. The project could not have been done without the incredible generosity of MUHS students and their dedication to truly be ‘Men for Others.’”

While Monday is grateful to return to his office, he is proud of the selflessness and ingenuity of his students.

He praised the freshmen and their advisors, Mike Feely and Jon Parsons, for developing “this creative idea.” He noted that this year, MUHS students have been involved in a number of charitable drives and service projects, including a drive to collect more than $4,000 for Jesuit Relief Services in East Africa, the Cheyenne River Youth Project, and the American Heart Association.

“The students are indeed living out the school’s mission in forming ‘Christ-like men for others,’” said Monday.