Wednesday evening I had the opportunity to attend the 5th annual Penny Harvest Purpose for Pennies event at Whetstone High School. Executive Director (Worthington resident and parent) Bill Grindle spoke to the Penny Harvest Student Leaders from across Central Ohio. He shared that in the last four years students just like them have raised and donated $136,736.71 to help others.
According the the See Kids Dream website, The Penny Harvest service-learning program empowers young people (students K – 8th grade) to achieve their own potential, while creating positive outcomes for both themselves and our community at large.
The program helps students take what they learn in a classroom and apply it to real world situations. It was developed by Common Cents in New York City. It was developed in response to one father’s dilemma about how to respond to his four-year-old daughter’s wish to comfort a homeless man in 1991. Teddy Gross’s quest to provide a meaningful way for his daughter Nora, to help that man gave birth to a program that now provides all children a way to help. Research conducted by Columbia University shows that students who participate demonstrate:
- Increased in self esteem
- Increased interest and effort toward academics
- Improved communication and leadership skills
- Improved decision making and problem solving
- A greater sense of responsibility to peers, adults and community
- Improved ability to work with others
There are three distict phases the Penny Harvest throughout the year:
Phase 1, Gather Pennies: In the Fall, the entire school is engaged in classroom discussions about community and citizenship. Ultimately, each classroom must come to consensus on an issue they care passionately about and add their classroom’s “voice” to the collection of issues that have been identified by the entire school. Student representatives organize a kick-off assembly to introduce the Penny Harvest to the student body and mobilize their peers to gather pennies. As students begin gathering pennies, they connect with their family, their neighborhood and the community at large; engaging in discussions about community needs. One hundred percent of the funds collected by the students are ultimately given away in Phase 2, The Philanthropy Roundtable.
Phase 2, Philanthropy Roundtable: The Penny Harvest Purpose for Pennies event kicked off Phase 2. During the Winter students research community needs, debate causes and learn more about organizations in their community. They review proposals and award service and community grants from the funds they have collected (typically about $1,000 or more per school). Students gain a deeper awareness of community issues, becoming powerful advocates as they ultimately decide how their money can make the biggest difference.
Phase 3, Take Action / Community Service: In the Spring, students take action to address the community needs they have become so passionate about. In partnership with nonprofit organizations, students and schools use their money and their hands-on involvement to perform service projects, creatively addressing the needs of their communities.
I’m proud that many of our schools choose to partner with Penny Harvest for service learning. Our kids can make a difference in our community both as elementary age students and as they move into adulthood. This program helps foster that both now and later.
(Side story: Each school creates a “wheel of caring” to demonstrate the different ways that Penny Harvest funds may be used to help others. The wheel pictured above is the brand new, beautiful, Liberty Elementary Wheel of Caring. One may likely ask, “why does Liberty have a brand new wheel? Is this their first year of Penny Harvest?” Good questions. As everyone is aware this year we have an outstanding new school Principal at Libery: Ms. Holly Coombs. She replaced an outstanding veteran Principal at Liberty, Mr. Jim Baker. Holly and I are similar. We like order, we like things cleaned up, and if it’s not nailed down it may get tossed out. Well, that’s exactly what happened. The new Principal threw away the Liberty Wheel of Caring!!! Yep, that’s right. Apparently she didn’t care all that much. In all seriousness, the wheel was set behind a filing cabinet, she was trying to clean the school up, and it looked like an old, worn, student project without a name, that never made its way home. When Holly learned what she had done, she of course felt more than awful and the quest to create a new Liberty Wheel of Caring began. I think they did a nice job and I think Holly is mostly off the hook. My friends, that’s the rest of the story….)