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 Student Penny Drive Raises More Than $1,200 to Aid Hurricane Victims

Students at Live Oak Elementary School in Fallbrook have pooled their pennies to help children whose lives have been upended by recent hurricanes. It’s an effort that has added up in more ways than one.

With more than 40 pounds of pennies collected — that’s $1,251.34 — from a two-week drive, students will donate the money to aid a school in Houston, where catastrophic flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey destroyed homes and damaged schools, and a school in Florida, where residents are struggling in the wake of Hurricane Irma.

In wanting to help their peers who had lost not only their homes but their school communities in the disasters, the school’s student Lighthouse teams put their heads together to come up with a plan. That’s when they remembered “Hearts for Estrella,” a fundraiser organized last year to benefit a student battling leukemia.

Students had hoped to raise at least $100 that the recipient schools can use to buy new supplies. They saw a lot of support early on.

“I’ve been around the classes and the cans are almost full,” sixth grader Shea Morgan, 11, said just one week into the drive. “I have high expectations for this school, especially the lower grades because they’re really into it.”

The payoff for the fourth, fifth and sixth graders who organized the campaign is being able to put the principles they are learning through “The Leader In Me” into action.

To launch the penny drive, students practiced their public speaking skills and delivered presentations to their 650 classmates at the K-6 school.

Teacher Jennifer Moore said the presenters were evaluated on making eye contact, shakings hands with each teacher, and communicating the goals of the campaign clearly, loudly and slowly — a task that can be difficult at first for youngsters.

But students are also demonstrating something more subtle — how everyone can benefit from an investment in kindness.

“We learned over the years that helping people is pretty nice,” 11-year-old Jasmine Uresti said. “I’d like to do it for everyone in the world, but that’s pretty hard to do that. So, we decided to start with Houston and Florida.”

A canister was placed in each classroom to collect donations. Moore said the class with the most donations by weight will be treated to an ice cream party. All denominations of coins were collected, as were dollars.

Live Oak is part of the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, which serves 5,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade at nine schools, including two campuses located on the United State Marine Corps Base at Camp Pendleton.