MAPLEWOOD, Minn. - The job description for an elementary school principal is wide ranging and varied, but rarely does the words "roof camper" appear.
Well, a school leader in the east metro decided to expand his duties to sleeping on the roof to make life better for his students.
"This is about moving to the future. It's about giving kids a tool that they need to be successful in a digital world, so that when kids walk into a school, they are not walking into their past but into their future," said Aly Xiong, principal of Gethsemane Lutheran School in Maplewood.
On Saturday, families of the Gethsemane School participated in the statewide Non-Public School Fundraiser. Xiong threw out a goal of $20,000 to buy iPads for his students.
"The incredible thing is that we never thought we'd make the goal of $20,000 as we are a small school that only raised $8,000 last year in the same fundraiser," said parent Kristy Gusick. "However, Principal Xiong did two things. First, he threw out the goal of $20,000 saying he'd spend the night on our school roof if we made that goal and secondly, he inspired us all to get on board with that vision, and we did!"
The school community has now raised $25,000 and Xiong spent the night on roof Tuesday from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Wednesday, when he greeted students as they walked into school. Many visited with donations for a local food shelf and a teacher even made pancakes.
"I am not an outdoor person and do not fish or hunt, but am excited about sleeping on the school's roof for student learning," said Xiong. "We want to place an iPad in every student's hand and will continue to raise money to do so. We need and are looking to partner with businesses to match what the students have raised so far."
Students say they can take notes on the iPad and improve their study skills.
"I know that our math teacher loves to find websites that can help with math. Our history teacher has a bunch of interactive websites, because the computer lab is always double-booked or scheduled so having it in the classroom we can do even more," said Student Council President Elissa Boll.
Gethsemane School plans to buy iPads for the students in 3rd through 8th grade. Xiong says students raised enough to buy 40 iPads to begin with, and eventually the school will buy 40 more.
"I think it's awesome because I know he wants to make a commitment for the school. We are a small school, but we can do a lot if you think about it," said student Sedona Wissar.
Gethsemane School is a pre-K-8 Christian school in Maplewood, with around 200 students.
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