Dana Miller

Pioneer Ridge Middle School Principal Dana Miller gives a thumbs up next to her tent, emblazoned with the sign “We miss you PRMS.” She spent the night on the roof of the school for a fundraiser.

Pioneer Ridge Middle School Principal Dana Miller recently hit the roof for charity.

Miller pledged to spend the night on top of the school if students raised $9,000 in the Pennies for Patients campaign, benefiting the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

The school raised almost $12,000, and up went Miller April 29, before coming down April 30.

Together all three Eastern Carver County middle schools raised over $42,000 for LLS, according to Miller.

For the fundraiser (held before the pandemic closed schools), staff dyed their hair, were taped to walls, spent the day on rollerblades, and participated in other lighthearted shenanigans.

“Once we learned we would not be coming back, we knew we still had to honor our students’ hard work this way,” Miller said, of the rooftop adventure.

Not only did the event serve as a fundraiser for a worthy cause, it also helped build community at a time when students are learning from home, Miller said.

“Our teachers and staff are working very hard to keep connections and relationships with students during this time, and this was another opportunity for that,” Miller said. “Overall it was a great experience, and maybe made more special by the fact we are out of school.”

Besides setting up a tent on the roof near the front entrance (and adding some weights, so it wouldn’t blow away), Miller began the night with a live kick-off via YouTube.

“We emailed students with the links and a schedule for the night. Then I hosted a Google Meets/Chat with each grade level for a half hour,” Miller said. “This was one of my highlights, as I got to talk to kids live and meet their pets, siblings, etc. and hear about how their weeks away are going, directly from them. It also allowed students to engage with each other which was fun to watch.”

Students and families were encouraged to drive by and honk or wave. “This was a highlight to see them in person, even if from a roof,” Miller said. “Some students got out and stood down by the railing so we could chat better.”

Along with staff, the (distance) party kept going until 11 p.m. “I guess my students keep a later bedtime these days than I do!”

Miller also taped bedtime stories and posted them for students.

It was dark on the roof, Miller relates, “and lots of weird sounds too.” The zipper on her tent door broke, and the winds kept blowing it open.

“I just added more layers and honestly had a decent night’s sleep until Mr. (Scott) Prescott, our band teacher, decided to start playing his trumpet down below early in the morning for our student announcements we post via video each day. That was quite the wakeup call!”

Then Miller climbed down from her perch for morning meetings, and “to find time for a very warm shower.”

For Miller, it was all worth it.

“It made my heart so filled to connect this way with our students. I might have taken it for granted before, and done this adventure, but not really realized how fulfilling it was for me too.”

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.

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