Catholic New York - "Pass it On" - February 28, 2008
'Pass It On' Students at Mahopac school turn small sums into big lesson on giving ~ By JULIANN DosSANTOS
When a fifth-grade teacher at St. John the Evangelist School in Mahopac gave each student in her class $10, she showed them more than the value of a dollar.
The teacher, Mrs. Valerie Nicholls, gave each of the 20 students in her class $10, and an assignment-do something for a needy cause. "I want them to realize how important stewardship is for later on in life," she said.
The ongoing project is called "Pass-It-On."
One student wrote a letter to Build-A-Bear, and received a box of bears, which she then donated to Birthright, an organization for single mothers and mothers in need.
Another student sold "dress down days" and raised $775 to donate to the Mosaic Down Syndrome Association .
Yet another sold chocolate lollipops for Valentine's Day and donated more than $300 to the American Heart Association .
Two students, Matt Witkowsky and Jarett Rooney, held a coat drive for Open Arms homeless shelter in White Plains. They collected 293 coats for men and women. "We picked coats because it was going to be really cold in the winter," Matt said. The two students asked for donations around their neighborhood, at their school and church, and at the local chiropractor.
They also received some $100 in donations for the shelter. "I learned that not only do you have to do this for a project, you can do it and do it all your life and pass it on like the project says," Matt said. "We had a really fun time doing the project and it was really nice because we got to help others and do really nice things," he said of his class.
Mrs. Nicholls told CNY that the response from the students was overwhelming. Students were responsible for taking charge of the project on their own. They wrote letters to various organizations and came up with projects they could do on their own. "They were so enthusiastic," she said. Principal Paul Henshaw said, "As a school we are trying to get the kids to think more of service to others. We appreciate their creativity for coming up with concepts that they could manage." Mrs. Nicholls said she came up with the idea after watching an episode of "Oprah" on which each person was given $1,000. From there, she said, the idea just took off. "It's unbelievable how generous people are and how the children came up with all these ideas," she said.
"They've really done a great job."