Cross Campus

Lending a Hand in the Face of Tragedy

In a city where people would give their last buck so the hungry can have food to eat, the desire to give back comes like second nature.

When word that Madeline Betancourt’s aggressive cancer had spread, leaving the mother of four with little time left, students at her daughters’ school, Humanities and Leadership Development (HLD), flew into action.

Dama Rodriguez, Betancourt’s sister, used the Internet to share her plea. On the website, she wrote, “My sister is only 37 years old she has four children, three teenage girls and one teenage boy whom she is devastated with the thought of leaving behind. She is currently homeless due to financial hardship and living in a motel.”

Rodriguez asked donors to help raise $10,000 to give her sister the chance to spend her last moments in a home with her children and pay for her medication.

Lawrence High School (LHS) is no stranger to being on both sides of the helping hand, whether it is to give the dollar or receive it. More than 90 percent of the students at LHS receive free lunch, raising questions of why they would be so willing to give what they might not have.

Xavier Rosado HLD ’15, put it simply, “It’s better to help someone in need rather than yourself.”

Madeline’s second-oldest daughter, Diandra Sepulveda, HLD ’15, has stayed strong since she found out her mother’s battle with breast cancer had entered the terminal stage. In a fundraising effort, Diandra and many of her close friends have been spending nights baking cupcakes and making pink ribbons to sell at school. With that alone, they have raised $600.

Initially, they set up the $10,000 fundraiser in secret so as to surprise Diandra’s mother with the final sum. Word about the fund, however, spread faster than anyone anticipated, with numerous people posting the link on social sites such as Twitter and Instagram.

As of Wednesday, they had raised $1,245 in 15 days, many of the donors being LHS students.

It’s easy to see that Diandra is humbled by this. “I’m lucky,” she says, “I’m happy to know that people care, even though they don’t even know us. I appreciate it all so much.”

The story has touched many, including another student who understands too well Diandra’s situation. “My mom is sick as well, medication for her is very expensive. I can relate to this completely and hope she gets better soon,” said Francess Osidi HHS ’14, a student from HLD’s sister school.

Despite coming primarily from rough economic backgrounds, the students at Lawrence High, and in the city in general, seem all the more willing to contribute to causes as they know what it’s like to have tragedy strike.

“People like to give help because we are more easily able to understand what it’s like to struggle and how it feels to be in need,” said Eric Allshouse, an art teacher in HLD. This is a community understanding, one that leaves no person behind in a time of need.

In the past, students have contributed to those who lost homes in fires, who have had ill family members and even the funeral fund of a senior who drowned in 2009. Many also participate in many of fund-raisers throughout Merrimack Valley, including the Walk to Cure Alzheimer’s, in which Ted Lombardi, HLD Assistant Principal, takes part each year. His father passed from the disease in 2011.

“Our students here have been wonderful through the years, coming out in big numbers to support me, and that’s always nice,” said Lombardi.

If you’d like to help Diandra’s family, the website is