Asked by their teachers to spend one dollar toward doing something good for someone else, a group of 100 John Jay Middle School students found creative—and inspiring—ways to use the money.
In fact, the teachers estimate, they collectively grew $100 to over $2,700 in matching and raised funds toward charitable causes.
The teachers—Laura Atwell, Gail Bergman, Amy Baisley, Nick Stathis and Jim Egeler—assigned the project on Dec. 21, one week after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. They set a due date of Jan. 9, exactly 26 days later, representing the number of students and teachers who were killed.
"We were all stunned after Newtown," said Atwell, one of five teachers on the team. "It might seem to seventh graders that there isn't a lot they can do after a situation like that, so we wanted to empower them to do something good."
The teachers donated $20 of their own money so each student would receive one dollar to spend on someone else.
"Amazing," said Atwell. "We expected them to be creative, but we were blown away."
Many students used social networks to ask for a matching contribution, thus increasing their funds to make purchases or donations to charitable causes. Three students presented their ideas to the Katonah Lewisboro board of education last week—an emotional presentation, said Atwell, that led to a standing ovation from the school board.
Mills Reed of Katonah described how he used matching funds to purchase three copies of the book The Three Questions by John Muth, and donated one copy each in memory of Anne Marie Murphy, a Katonah native and teacher who died at Sandy Hook. Reed arranged for the books to go to the Mount Kisco Library, Katonah Village Library and Somers Public Library—where Murphy was born, raised and buried.
Ryan Kingston of Cross River used social media to raise matching $1 contributions for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in memory of his best friend whom he lost to the disease a few years ago.
"I received donations from friends, family from Lewisboro as well as from Florida, South Carolina and Virginia—even from my mom's friend in Long Island who lost her home in Hurricane Sandy," said Kingston. "This shows that little acts of kindness go a long way. I loved this project and will remember it in years to come."
Caleigh Boyer-Holt of Katonah also grew her dollar to a larger sum, which she and six other students used to buy supplies to hold a bake sale in Katonah. They raised $200 and donated it to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Here are some other examples, as relayed by Atwell:
- Three students (independent of each other) used the dollar to buy stamps, and wrote and mailed letters to their elected officials asking for sensible laws around guns.
- One student obtained matching funds and pre-paid for 26 coffees at Noka Joe's, leaving 26 slips of paper at the counter to be handed to each customer, explaining their coffee was pre-paid in honor of the lives lost at Newtown.
- One student traveling in Belize gave her dollar to a girl of apparent little means there.
- Many students did extra chores at home, earning extra money to donate to local nonprofts such as the Outreach ALS Foundation.
The idea, said Atwell, was inspired by a similar project conducted by a pastor at the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Mt. Kisco with a preschool class. And some students were inspired to follow the trend of performing 26 acts of kindness, an informal campaign started by NBC news anchor, Ann Curry, who covered the shooting in Newtown.
"One dollar was the seed for these kids to spread kindess," Atwell said. "This may turn into a team tradition."
Did you participate in this project? Share your project in the comments. Or, share your own ideas for performing acts of kindness below.