By Christine Finlayson
For the Hollywood Star, January, 2010
Every December, students at Roseway Heights School dig into their pockets and piggy banks for coins, bringing them to the school’s penny drive. This year, students raised $2,594.82 over seven days by collecting pennies—as well as nickels, dimes, and quarters—in their classrooms. They donated the money to Habitat for Humanity and the Roseway Heights Secret Santa program, which provides needy families with food, clothing and holiday gifts.
Since its beginning in 1992 at the former Gregory Heights Middle School, the school’s penny drive has raised an estimated $60,000 for various charities. The funds have provided art supplies, school supplies and money to an orphanage in San Pancho, Mexico; 600 pairs of shoes for children in Guaymas, Mexico; gifts and cash donations to help military families and victims of Hurricane Katrina and teddy bears for young patients at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The penny drive has also supported school families who are struggling with medical and financial issues.
Kurt Krohn, an eighth-grade teacher at Roseway Heights, has been involved with the Penny Drive since the early years. “The kids get really excited about it,” he says. “They can see their money is making an impact.” In class, students learn about where the money goes and how it will be used. As kindergartener Lily Horan says, “I like bringing money because that’s how I help…it’s going to support people who need clothes, houses and money.”
Teachers have used the penny drive to build math skills, writing skills, and even college awareness. The younger grades practiced counting coins and totaling class contributions, while eighth grade students wrote letters to local businesses asking for donations. And in this year’s Civil War 2, each classroom collected coins in two jars: a University of Oregon jar and an Oregon State University one. Students could choose to “feed” the Duck or Beaver. (At press time, the Ducks were winning handily.)
The penny drive also spurred school spirit. Panther Pride—a service club for sixth through eighth graders—hosted three assemblies, complete with relay races, a dance contest, the Madison High School Drum Line and Top Notes Choir and plenty of noisy cheering. Roseway Heights 22 classes were divided into the Blue and the Gold teams, which competed for the most money raised. “When we made up the teams,” Krohn says, “we tried to balance those teachers who are really competitive with those who have the attitude, ‘Everyone just gives what they can.’”
Students love the competitions. But most importantly, they take home lessons about being generous and participating in their community. “We’re not a wealthy neighborhood,” says Krohn. “Giving up change is a huge sacrifice for a lot of people.” He notes that several families have continued to donate even though their children graduated years ago.
Sixth grader Maddie Robert and her brother Alden (third grade) each contributed about $10 to the penny drive. “It’s important that we donate to people in need,” Maddie says. “And seeing how many pennies we can get all together is fun.”
Krohn hopes that all 575 Roseway Heights students feel they can make a difference. This December, they certainly did. Their contributions gave holiday cheer to more than ten needy families, and provided a generous check to Habitat for Humanity. When all the coins were gathered during an assembly, students cheered as they saw the long line of penny jars. After all, $2,594.82 is a lot of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.
Roseway Heights School is located at 7334 N.E. Siskiyou St. For more information about the school, visit rosewayheights.org or call (503) 916-5600.