Basalt students raise $1,000 Texas school hit by Harvey | AspenTimes.com

Basalt students raise $1,000 Texas school hit by Harvey

Special to The Aspen Times

Students at Basalt Middle School raised $1,000 for Arnold Middle School in Cypress, Texas, through their friendly competition called The Penny Wars.

One of the five pillars of Basalt Middle School's Habits of a Scholar character program is compassion. When Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas in August, Basalt Middle School decided to kick off the school year by highlighting this trait through a competitive fundraiser known to students as The Penny Wars.

The fundraiser, which ran from the first day of school through the school's Back to School Night, raised $1,000 for Arnold Middle School in Cypress, Texas. The choice of middle schools wasn't random.

"We wanted to donate to a middle school through a local connection," said BMS art teacher Guinevere Jones, who helped spearhead the effort with her Crew class.

Jones connected with Basalt High School art teacher Sunny K. McClain, whose friends and family in the Houston area were deeply impacted by the hurricane. McClain's sister's children attend Arnold Middle School, located in a part of Houston particularly hard hit with devastating floods.

"One of the times I spoke to my sister, a National Guard helicopter was evacuating a home just four houses down," McClain said. "She told me that the elementary, middle and high schools were all flooded and the start of school would be postponed for two weeks."

Looking at the school's Facebook page, one might not guess the level of impact the hurricane had on the school community. When Principal Ellsperman reached out to Arnold Middle School's principal, she learned that the homes of six teachers had been destroyed, many families who had kitchens on the first floor had no way to cook food, and mold was becoming a huge concern.

Recommended Stories For You

While the school had received an influx of school-supply donations, the cash donation was a surprise and very welcome. It will be used to help mitigate these immediate concerns, including donating food to families and possibly purchasing turkeys at Thanksgiving.

The ensuing Penny Wars competition between the grades was fierce. Rules for this fundraiser, which BMS has used previously to raise money for victims of the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, are simple. Each grade has a jar. Pennies added to a class's jar count toward points for that class. Any other coin or currency counts against that class's points — hence, the fifth-grade class lost with -24,956 points, but they also won as the class to raise the most money.

"The kids dove into supporting the fundraiser, and it was a back-breaking job to bring all that change to the bank to be counted," said Jones, who walked the final pouches to the bank with her Crew class.

Several Crew classes also made cards to accompany the donation. Now that the Penny Wars are over, students are already considering new ways they can show compassion and support communities less fortunate than theirs.

"To have our students thinking about and helping others, that's the outcome we wanted," Principal Ellsperman said. "Fostering a sense of compassion is critical to our students' success and wellbeing in life. We're excited to see them dive into it in such a tangible, meaningful way, and we're thrilled to be able to help another middle school in the process."