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Shawn LaChapelle, Special to The Post-Star 

Swing dancers perform at the South High Marathon Dance on Saturday.

South High Marathon Dance is a labor of love; $831,191.15 raised

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — It takes an entire community to pull off the South High Marathon Dance each year.

There’s the prizes, the food, the decorations, the security, parking, music, special events, selecting recipients and, of course, raising all the money — of which the dance raised  $831,191.15 this year.

“There are tons and tons of little moving parts that people don’t think about,” said Pat Fish, a 2014 South High graduate who is in charge of social media for the event this year. “There’s the prize patrol — they get the prizes for the top fundraising dancers; there’s a full department for parking, and they are busing people back and forth; there are over 50 security (guards) who have been coming here for a long time.”

Marathon Dance to become nonprofit

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The South High Marathon Dance has raised more than $7 million in its 41-year history, an enormous amount for a student club.

As Fish talks about all those “moving parts,” the list of what it takes to make the SHMD a success grows.

“There’s a whole department for (food) concessions and a separate department for feeding the dancers,” Fish said on Saturday afternoon. “Just think about all the people counting all the money. There are donations coming in until the last minute and they are counting all that.”

Now in its 41st year, the South High Marathon Dance has grown from 50 student dancers raising $1,500 to 815 dancers aiming to beat last year’s total of $823,614.91. And in their four decades of service to the community, the marathon dance has raised over $5 million to assist individuals and organizations.

“Over 80 percent of the student body participates,” said Fish, adding that at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, at the end of 28 hours, the final total will be announced.

Because this is a student-run event, with lots of parent and community volunteer help, a student chairperson is selected by the students at the beginning of the school year.

“In the beginning of the year the (SHMD) committee put up nominations on the board of chair-worthy students,” said senior Morgan Smith, 18, chairwoman of this year’s dance, adding that she was selected by a student vote.

And the work began right away.

“The committee began brainstorming and holding fundraising events,” she said.

In addition to planning all the “moving parts” of the actual event, Smith and her team had to select the recipients of this year’s donations.

“There were over 200 individual applications,” she said, adding that there were also organizations who applied.

Along with members of the committee and some friends, Smith typed up the information from the applications and made applicant packets for the committee to review. In one committee meeting, they looked over everything and held open discussions about the applications; at another meeting, they voted.

“We want to make sure to help as many people as possible,” she said.

And sometimes when they weren’t able to select an applicant, they selected an organization that could help the individual.

“Even if not a recipient, we try to help as much as we can,” she said.

At 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, nearly 21 hours into the marathon, and with everyone feeling a bit tired, the funds were rolling in. The 50/50 raffle had raised $8,000. “It’s looking good so far,” said Smith. “We’re building up right now.”

According to Fish, the bulk of the money is raised by the students going door to door and asking friends and family for donations. And on Saturday afternoon there was a break in the dancing for student fundraising awards. There were 815 dancers this year and each one had a minimum $150 donation to dance.

The top donor, sophomore Jason Viger, raised $13,106.

“A few years ago, I came in third with $4,000,” said Fish. “Now sixth place students are at $6,000.”

This year, in light of recent school shootings, security was enhanced and for the first year, the SHMD used metal detectors and hand-held wands at the entrances. Additionally, New York State Troopers, sheriff deputies and police dogs were present. The metal detecting equipment was loaned to the dance from The Great Escape.

On Saturday afternoon, a representative of the Queensbury amusement park presented the marathon with a check for $7,000 from the employees who had raised it for the effort.

According to Smith, running the marathon dance has really changed her perspective.

“When you are chairperson, you meet the recipients first-hand,” she said. “This has changed everything in my life. I want to keep doing this the rest of my life.”

Photos and videos: 41st annual South High Marathon Dance

Marathon Dance to become nonprofit

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — The South High Marathon Dance has raised more than $7 million in its 41-year history, an enormous amount for a student club.

Because the dance is such a massive undertaking, organizers have decided it is time to spin off the event as its own nonprofit.

Jody Sheldon, one of the advisers to the dance, said the group is well along in the process of becoming a 501c3 nonprofit.

“Our bylaws are done. We’ve created our board of directors. We’re working on finalizing all of our paperwork,” she said.

Sheldon and fellow Marathon Dance advisers Tom Myott and Dan Albert make up the board of directors.

Sheldon said Marathon Dance organizers had not taken this step before because there is so much paperwork. There are state and federal forms to complete. Attorney Edward Fitzgerald and accountant Kerry Girard are donating their time to help.

“They’re doing a lot of the work for us,” she said.

Sheldon said the group was hoping the process would have been completed by the first of the year. However, the attorney and accountant had a lot going on in their businesses.

“Our hope and our goal is that we would be in place by July 1 of this year,” she said.

Marathon Dance organizers have been thinking of taking this step for the past couple of years. Sheldon said the two main reasons are to alleviate the workload for the school’s business office and to solicit more corporate donations.

Sheldon said the business office staff is amazing, but the Marathon Dance is taking up more and more of their time.

“It’s a lot of work for the school district and the employees of the school district to do, with the sheer volume of what we’re doing,” she said.

Attracting more business sponsorship is another reason. Some businesses will only donate to a 501c3 entity, according to Sheldon. Others prefer to match donations from their employees, which can only be done with nonprofit status.

“A business can absolutely still donate and we have a lot of businesses that donate,” she said.

Sheldon said businesses are very generous — not just in South Glens Falls but in other communities, including Saratoga Springs, Hudson Falls and Queensbury — donating money, goods, services and their time.

Sheldon said Marathon Dance organizers are not making the change because of any problems with management of finances.

“We have not had any issues. That’s not the reason for this,” she said.

The organizers have a system of checks and balances to make sure the money is secure, according to Sheldon.

“There’s no one person who has access to all of the money at any one time. There’s always a double check. In many cases, there’s four different people accounting for the money that comes in,” she said.

She is the third person in that chain, and the school district accounts for the money last.

“We keep an inventory of things so we know how many items we’ve sold, how much money has come in,” she said.

Sheldon said one thing that will not change with the move to being a nonprofit is that the South High Marathon Dance will continue to be a student-driven event.

“We’ll obviously have to hire an accountant. That’s the only thing that will change. From the public standpoint, there will be absolutely no changes to the dance. They’ll notice nothing different,” she said.

Trump's effort to curb immigration could hurt US economy

WASHINGTON — America’s 21st century job market increasingly demands high-tech skills and knowledge. Yet consider this: Nearly half the new jobs the government foresees emerging by 2026 will require only a high school diploma — or none at all.

Those jobs share something else in common, too: Hundreds of thousands of them will likely be taken by low-skilled immigrants who are willing to do work that many Americans won’t.

Lost in the immigration debate raging in Washington is the vital economic role played by immigrants who don’t have the education, training or skills that the Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress say should be a pre-requisite. Economists say that especially with unemployment at a 17-year low and the growth of the workforce slowing, immigrants — skilled as well as unskilled — are vital to the economy.

“The idea that we only need people with certain degrees — it’s never been true in America, and it’s less true now than it was in the past,” said Michael Clemens, an economist and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a Washington think tank.

Sixty-three percent of current American jobs — and 46 percent of jobs expected to be created between 2016 and 2026 — require no more than a high school degree, according to the Labor Department. The new positions include low-paying jobs that most native-born Americans are loath to pursue — an estimated 778,000 personal-care aides (median pay in 2016: $21,920), 580,000 food-service workers ($19,400), 431,000 home-health aides ($22,600).

Many of those jobs, Clemens says, “will either be done by immigrants, or they will not be done at all.”

Already, foreign-born workers — about 17 percent of the overall workforce — account for 52 percent of America’s maids, 47 percent of roofers and 40 percent of construction laborers and laundry and dry-cleaning workers.

Low-skilled immigrants harvest sweet potatoes and cucumbers in fields in North Carolina. They serve dementia patients in nursing homes. They vacuum offices. They are waiters, cooks and maids at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

The Trump administration and many Republicans in Congress want to reduce the number of foreigners who can enter the United States and establish a merit system for those who do. They argue that restrictions on both legal and illegal immigration would protect Americans from potential criminals and from low-skilled immigrants who they say drive down wages for everyone.

Trump “understands what’s broken in our immigration system and what’s holding down wages for American workers,” Sen. Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, has said. “I stand ready to work with him and my colleagues to build an immigration system that supports the American worker and boosts our economy.”

The president’s immigration plan, rejected along with similar measures by the Senate this month, would bar immigrants from sponsoring siblings, parents and adult children and end a visa lottery meant to increase diversity. It would also earmark $25 billion for the construction of a border wall to keep Mexicans and Central Americans from crossing illegally.

The administration has also endorsed legislation from Sens. Cotton and David Perdue of Georgia that would favor visa applicants who are well-educated, speak English well and meet other criteria designed to attract immigrants who possess high skills and weed out those who don’t.

Yet the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model, which analyzes public policy proposals, has concluded that the Cotton-Perdue bill would reduce economic growth and eliminate 1.3 million jobs by 2027 and 4.6 million by 2040.

Many immigrants say they are confident — or at least hopeful — it won’t come to that.

“I’m optimistic,” says Amara Sumah, an immigrant from Sierra Leone who owns a West African restaurant in Washington D.C. “The American people are generous. The president cannot change the country by himself.”

The fear that immigrants will take the jobs of native-born workers is rooted in a time when most Americans were far less educated. Native- and foreign-born workers used to vie for low-skill jobs. Today’s better-educated American-born workers are much less likely to compete with new arrivals with low skills. Twenty-five years ago, 46 percent of U.S. workers had no more than a high school degree. Only 28 percent had four-year college degrees; now, 40 percent do. Just 33 percent have only a high school diploma or less.

Many native-born Americans tend to shun low-paying, physically demanding work, even when good jobs are scarce. Consider what happened in North Carolina in 2011, when the state still bore scars from the Great Recession. Nearly 500,000 North Carolinians were jobless. The state’s farms needed 6,500 workers to plant and harvest cucumbers, sweet potatoes and tobacco.

Yet only 268 native-born unemployed North Carolinians sought the farm jobs, which paid $9.70 an hour. Of those, 245 were hired. Only 163 showed up on Day One. And just seven kept at the job until the growing season had ended.

Mexicans laborers, by contrast, took 6,474 of the jobs under temporary farm-worker visas, according to a study by Clemens, who concluded: “It appears that nearly all domestic workers prefer almost any labor-market outcome — including long periods of unemployment — to carrying out manual harvest and planting labor.”

Instead of competing with native-born workers, immigrants increasingly appear to complement them — and make them more productive. Patricia Cortes of Boston University and Jose Tessada of Chile’s Pontifical Catholic University have found that an increase in immigrant nannies and housekeepers from 1980 to 2000 drove down the price of household services and allowed American-born women to work longer hours on the job because they had less work to do at home.

The Pew Research Center last year reported that the U.S. workforce will grow only if new immigrants replace retiring baby boomers. Pew projects that the U.S. working-age (25-64) population would rise from 173 million in 2015 to 183 million in 2035 with immigrants — or shrink to 166 million without them.