Face of the Week: Cole Cero of Edgemere Elementary School
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Face of the Week: Cole Cero of Edgemere Elementary School

Maybe it was the holiday season that got to Cole Cero. A fifth-grader at Edgemere Elementary School, Cole remembers moving to a new home this year and how he felt seeing others in need at Thanksgiving.  “I realized how great I have it, with my family and new home and all,” he says. “I realized how lucky I am.”

Or maybe it was Cole’s family that got him thinking about the importance of reaching out to others less fortunate. He thinks a lot about his dad, Tony Cero, a city firefighter, who spends time taking blankets to the homeless. And of his maternal grandmother, Tina Urso-Gollahan, who, before she moved to Kansas recently, spent so much of her time working at homeless shelters or food pantries.

“When we lived in Dundalk, she lived right around the corner, and I’d ask my mom if I could ride my bike over to her house in the afternoons,” Cole says. “And that’s everything she’d ever talk to me about, helping others. I learned a lot from her.”

Or maybe it was simply being Cole Cero that led the 10-year-old to single-handedly start a toy drive at his school. In just a week, Cole’s drive both collected scores of new toys destined for needy children during the holidays and touched the hearts of many seasoned adults at Edgemere.

“We are very proud of Cole and his selfless dedication to helping others this holiday season,” says Edgemere’s principal, Jennifer Lynch, who met with Cole and signed off on the project. “Every day, I love watching him check the boxes for newly donated toys.  His pride and enthusiasm brings a smile to all of us.” 

Lynch also knows Edgemere played a role in leading Cole to establish the toy drive.  This year, she says, Grade 5 students learned about giving back to their communities and became involved in projects to benefit Edgemere; at the Dec. 15 winter concert, for instance, the class will raise funds for several community projects.  

“I am bursting at the seams with pride and excitement about this project because it truly captures the idea of ‘student-led learning,’” Lynch says. “The students are getting more and more excited about finding new and innovative ways to serve their community.  I am so excited to watch our teachers cultivate the civic leaders of tomorrow.” 

Cole agrees, though the toy drive was his inspiration alone; he came up with the idea after seeing a television report on a similar effort over the Thanksgiving break. Once he got approval from Ms. Lynch, Cole says, he obtained boxes from Walmart and flyers from Staples and got to work encouraging the school community to donate.

For logistical support, Cole called upon a local charitable group he’d joined with his grandmother called Santa’s Helpers, Inc. In the past, he says, he has helped the group with canned food drives and providing a special dinner for “shut-ins.” With the group’s help, Cole was scheduled to wrap the gifts and distribute them to needy families over the Dec. 9th weekend.

“The boxes went out a week ago, and every day I run in to look at how they are doing,” he says. Nearby, both boxes are overflowing with unwrapped gifts – a tube of toy racing cars, a “Baby Alive” doll, a marker art set, a plastic model hot rod set.

“Some kids don’t get a good Christmas, so it’s been so joyful to watch the toys stack up,” Cole says.

The drive caps off a successful first half of the year, says Cole. “It’s been great here” since coming to Edgemere at the start of the school year from his old neighborhood in Dundalk. Part of the reason for the move was to be closer to Cole’s many rec and club teams in the Sparrows Point area; he plays everything from lacrosse and football to soccer and baseball.

“Everybody has been so nice to me here (at Edgemere),” Cole says. “Plus, I know a lot of people from sports, so it’s been good.”

Poised and polite, Cole counts science and mathematics among his favorite subjects. “I love to get my hands dirty and invent things,” he says; in one class project, he recently envisioned devising a headband that would enhance mobility for disabled people.  

Even now, he’s considering a career of public service – inspired by a friend of his father’s, he says, he hopes one day to join the Coast Guard.

More immediate, however, are Cole’s plans for middle school next year. He knows he’ll keep volunteering his time for the needy, but until he gets acclimated to life at Sparrows Point Middle, he says, he can’t commit to staging another toy drive.

“I’ll think about it,” he says. “I know I want to keep doing it, or doing something. I makes me feel great inside to know I’m helping my community in such a big way. . . .  In some way, I need to help.”

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