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Le Roy elementary school students raise $1,600 in pennies

By Daniel Crofts

Students at Le Roy's Wolcott St. School spent the last two weeks raising money for those less fortunate. They did this as part of the Pennies for Peace campaign, a program of the Central Asia Institute.

It is designed to raise funds for community-based education and literacy programs -- esepcially for girls -- in remote, Central Asian mountain communities.

The grand total raised by Wolcott St. School -- calculated with the help of the Bank of Castile -- was $1,600. Here is a grade-by-grade count:

Pre K -- $52
K -- $149
Grade 1 -- $183
Grade 2 -- $210
Grade 3 -- $157
Grade 4 -- $325
Grade 5 -- $275
Grade 6 -- $241


Kids collected and brought in pennies over a two-week period. Pictured above are the graphed results as of Friday morning (each jar represents $10 in pennies).

What is particularly impressive about this is that the students were not rewarded for the number of pennies they brought in. From the very beginning, there was an understanding that the class that collected the most pennies would not get a pizza party or anything like that.

"What we're looking to do is help the students become intrinsically motivated," said Principal Casey Kosiorek.

He said the overall goal as it pertained to the kids was to help them grow into good citizens who will want to do the right thing without being rewarded.

"I never expected it to have such an impact," said Carol Messura, assistant principal and chair of the project. She said that the students were "extremely enthusiastic" about the whole deal.

"If you were here earlier this morning, you could hear little hoots and hollers with the sound of change being poured into the buckets (pictured at the top)."

Kosiorek said that the money will go toward supplies, teachers' salaries and the building of schools in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"They have pretty much nothing," he commented.


In a letter to parents, Kosiorek and Messura asked that the kids perform "an extra chore or two" in order "to make a meaningful connection to the money they bring in."

Each letter came with a pencil-shaped slip on which parents were to describe the chores their kids performed and (the kids') hopes for the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. All "pencils" were returned to homeroom teachers and used in the display above.

"Pennies for Peace" was this year's service learning project for the students. The school does two projects every year: one in-school project, and one to benefit folks outside the school community.

This year's service project started when Cindy Frisch, the school librarian, read Greg Mortenson's "Listen to the Wind" to all of the students.

Mortenson, the founder of Pennies for Peace and author of The New York Times bestseller "Three Cups of Tea," wrote "Listen to the Wind" in order to relate his first building experience in Pakistan. At the end of the book, he talks about how far a penny can go in Pakistan/Afghanistan.

"(A penny) doesn't buy much in our community," Kosiorek and Messura said in their letter to parents. "However, in the villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan, a penny can buy a pencil, start an education, and transform a life." 

Examples of how much certain small amounts of money could buy for kids in those countries were included on this chart:


Kosiorek describes service learning as an "offshoot" of the school's Character Education Committee, of which Messura is the chair. It is part of an overall environment in which core values and qualities that will help make the students good citizens are nurtured.

"We want to make sure we're educating the whole child," Kosiorek said. "They're kind of desensitized (to certain things) because of the media and the 'age of rage' (reality TV, etc). If we teach them to be good citizens, the rest will follow."

Character education has been a big part of Wolcott St. School's mission for some time; in fact, they were recognized with an honorable mention by the Academy for Character Education at the Sage Colleges in January.


One of the major components of character education at Wolcott is "Words of the Month." Each month, teachers focus on a particular word describing a positive character trait (for example, the Word of the Month for March was honesty), and on how it is used in the classroom. Teachers keep an eye out for and nominate students who display that trait in class, and at the end of the month their names go under the "Good Character" tree near the school's entrance.

This is part of the school's "Catching Kids Being Good" policy.

And now, as Kosiorek and Messura said in their letter to parents, Wolcott students have joined "tens of thousands of students around the world . . . who are working together to become members of a global family dedicated to peace."

For more information on the Pennies for Peace program, visit their Web site:

  Supplementary Photo  

The Statue of Liberty by Oatka Creek.

Mardell Lamb

That is amazing and hats off to all the youngsters who participated AND for the generous donations. What a great cause. GREAT JOB EVERYONE.

PS: The title of this article says $16,000 and further down towards the end it says $1,600 was raised. (?)

Again, round of applause to the kiddos & what a wonderful lesson taught.

Mar 30, 2011, 4:39pm Permalink
bud prevost

It was $1600, and that is a boatload of pennies. As a parent of a WSS student, I couldn't be prouder of the great kids my son attends school with day in and day out. While it seems that news is always bad, this story definitely made me smile :)

Mar 30, 2011, 4:54pm Permalink
Mardell Lamb

Appreciate your wonderful contributions to The Batavian. Thank you ~ keep up the good work. Again, kudos to the kiddos. Great article. We can all learn something from this!

Mar 30, 2011, 5:31pm Permalink
Janice Stenman

The amazing moral of this story was that these children learned that giving IS the reward. All too often, we, the adults think that only a prize such as the pizza party is the way to motivate kids. In this case it was properly placed empathy.

Great job, kids, and great story, Dan.

Apr 1, 2011, 7:39pm Permalink

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