SOUTH BEND -- Javon Clark's education began Wednesday as he eyed more than 20 people lined up outside to receive groceries from the Food Bank of Northern Indiana's pantry.
"Seeing that long line over there, that catches me off guard," said Javon, 17, who helped to deliver boxes of food in the area's first-ever Student Hunger Drive.
It marked the junior's first day of classes in Jobs for America's Graduates, or JAG, a school for students with certain barriers.
It also drew the Student Hunger Drive to a close as competing high schools dropped off food they'd gathered over the past 5 1/2 weeks.
Students devised their own strategies. Some found they could generate more food by collecting money, then buying in bulk.
Since it's the first one for northern Indiana, the drive's director, Jessica Hilary, said she set no expectations for how it would turn out but ended up "shocked at the amount of food they raised." A total of 73,288 pounds of food was collected, she said.
Out of seven high schools who chose to compete, first prize went to St. Joseph for raising the most pounds of food. The school wins $1,000, and $1,000 will be donated to the Food Bank in its name, Hilary said.
Marian won second prize: $750 for the school.
Washington claimed the "mission prize" for an essay on how the school ran the drive and the ideas it generated. Students there voted with money to see which of four male teachers they wanted to dress in green tights.
Almost half of Washington's first-hour classes joined an in-school contest for prizes like free food, said teacher Paula Abraham.
"I could really use some of that pizza," said senior Chris Lunsford, 19, after he carried boxes at the Food Bank.
Abraham said she got her business class to coordinate events along with the student council and the school's National Honor Society.
Washington students invited its feeder schools to help, including Kennedy Primary Academy, where it sent three students to talk about the project.
The students called on Teachers Credit Union to put collection boxes at its branches in South Bend and Mishawaka, along with three Martin's Super Market stores.
The JAG Out of School program in South Bend held a talent show, with six student competitors who sang and danced, drawing almost 50 people on Saturday, said teacher Heather Williams.
One student, a single mom, told her "she felt empowered and encouraged to help someone in the community because she felt like she's received so much help."
"A lot of people we didn't think cared were giving to help the less fortunate," said Michael Bush, 16, a junior at Adams, where the school's JAG program ran the drive.
"We could have gotten way more food," junior Daquan Williams, 17, said.
"Maybe we could have advertised it sooner," Michael added. "We started to get a lot of cans but the deadline came up soon."
Adams boasted a video game, entertainment system and pizza party for top prizes. Frankie's Bar-B-Que and Subway donated to a drawing for those who brought in six items of food.
About 10 Marian students warned neighbors with a flyer, then went trick-or-treating for cans of food on Halloween, said the school's development director, Alicia Redinger. But most students were competing to see which first-hour class could win a random mix of gift cards and rights to a dress-down day.
"A lot of kids are realizing they are pretty fortunate with what they have," said senior Dillon Gohn, 18, on his first-ever trip to the Food Bank.
The Crossing and Riley's JAG program also competed in the drive. It was open to all high schools in the six counties that the Food Bank serves. The nonprofit Student Hunger Drive was founded in 1986 in the Quad Cities on the Illinois-Iowa line. The drive has since added Charlotte, N.C., too.
Staff writer Joseph Dits: