Columbia students raise money for Japan

SCHOOLS: COLUMBIA PUBLIC SCHOOLS

By RACHEL LIJEWSKI

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

Since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami ravaged Japan’s east coast and killed more than 10,000 people, Columbia Public School students have initiated a number of ways to raise money for Japan relief.

The combined efforts of Columbia’s public schools have raised more than $4,500 to donate to the American Red Cross for Japan relief, and money is still trickling in from schools across Columbia.

A fundraising campaign for Japan at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School began with Rhonda Hafner’s second-grade class. The second-graders focused on Asia during the school’s multicultural night on April 28, so when Hafner started a penny drive for Japan, it fit in nicely with the class project.


The students jumped in and were soon bringing handfuls of change into class. Some gave money they would otherwise spend on ice cream, and Hafner said one student emptied his entire piggy bank.

“It has been a joy to watch the excitement they have in giving rather than receiving,” she said.

Hafner took a fish bowl full of change to the bank with a little over $100 inside. The penny drive ended April 29.

Tina Windett, the principal of Derby Ridge Elementary, heard from a parent the day after the earthquake who asked if there was a way to “turn this sad event into an opportunity to teach our students empathy and compassion.”

Windett organized “Change to Change Lives,” putting out a clear jar for students to toss their spare change. Windett said she wanted them to see how they were helping as the jar filled up.

The drive ended April 22 with a total of $442.73. One first-grader came in with $21, and another student convinced her family to give up their pennies and dimes.

“There were lots of pennies, which was kind of exciting,” Windett said. “Sometimes you think, ‘well, it’s just a few pennies’, but a few pennies here, a few pennies there really add up and that’s what we tried to tell the kids.”

The Lange Middle School seventh grade Allies team sponsored a competition to raise money and called it Japennies Wars. The challenge was for each student to bring in enough change to outdo the other teams.

On March 24, in the midst of the competition, the social studies class held a Japan update that let the students know about the level of damage and the following earthquakes after the first. April Brown, a social studies teacher at Lange, said the students decided that competing wasn’t going to raise enough, so they decided to pool their resources. Brown said the students helped make signs, write announcements, and talk to the other classes about the fundraiser.

In the first week, the Allies team raised $51.29. By the end of the fundraiser, the school had raised just under $500.
On April 21, Oakland Junior High students were encouraged to bring a dollar to wear a hat during school, something that isn’t normally allowed. It raised about $250.

Danielle Johnson, language arts teacher at Oakland, said the students came up with the idea themselves. She said many of them were very eager to help raise money for Japan. The school also had a lunch for staff sponsored by the student council that raised about $100.

Benton Elementary School raised over $900 in the week and a half directly following the disaster. Troy Hogg, principal at Benton, is overseeing district-wide efforts to raise money for Japan. Both he and his wife, Sanae, have a special connection to Japan. He taught elementary and middle school students in Japan for three years. He also met Sanae, who is Japanese and has family in Tokyo.

Cedar Ridge Elementary and Mill Creek Elementary combined efforts with Benton. As of April 15, they raised $3,230.
The Japanese club at Rock Bridge High School, which includes 15 students from all grade levels, is a place for students who are learning Japanese or who are interested in the culture to come and learn more about Japan through after-school movies, activities, history, and music.

The club’s one Japanese student was the one who suggested the club host a bake sale to raise money for Japan. Junko Oba, one of the adult organizers of the club and a Japanese language teacher at Rock Bridge said that the rest of the club immediately agreed and got to work.

The Japanese club made posters and held the bake sale around March 20. They raised $350.

Hogg said that money is still coming in from the Columbia schools for Japan, and some schools are beginning to discuss ways to raise money for the storm damage down south.

“They’ve always gone above and beyond to help those in need,” said April Brown about her group of Allies students at Lange. “We’re very proud of them.”

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