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America Supports You: Students’ Penny Drive for Troops Makes Cents

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15, 2006 – The pennywise students of Hawthorne Middle School, in Pocatello, Idaho, can afford to be proud of themselves.

In November, the students held a three-week penny drive to raise money for 92 National Guard servicemembers recently deployed from Pocatello. Hawthorne students come from the poorest parts of Pocatello, and the penny drive gave each one a chance to participate in the fundraising effort, school officials said.

“You walk down the sidewalk and see pennies on the ground,” Carol Hill, director of Hawthorne’s Student Leadership Group and school counselor said. “We didn’t ask them (to donate), we just had jars out that they could drop their coins into.”

School officials expected the students would raise roughly $150. But the 540 Hawthorne students dropped $1,001.30 in coins into the school’s collection jars.

“When you think of a penny drive you don’t think it will turn into so much. I was amazed,” Hill said.

Many Hawthorne students come from families under financial strain, so raising roughly $1,000 was overwhelming and humbling to witness, Hill said.

Hawthorne will use the money to send greeting cards and telephone calling cards to each of the 92 servicemembers before the holidays.

“I donated to the soldiers because I feel like since they give freedom and safety to us, I should at least give some money to help them have an opportunity to talk with their families,” Kourtney, an eighth-grader at Hawthorne, said.

Every six weeks, Hawthorne students brainstorm possible service projects, then one project is selected through a popular vote. Collecting coins for troops won by a landslide. And because Veterans Day was nearing when the idea was floated, patriotism might have been on the children’s’ minds when selecting the project, Hill said.

“I participated in the fundraiser because I have family in the war,” seventh-grader Rachael said. “I know it was the right thing to do.”

During a school assembly on Veterans Day, Army Spc. J.D. Oborne returned to Hawthorne Middle School, his alma mater, to speak to students. “He talked about what life was like as a soldier over (in Iraq). I think it had a terrific effect on them,” Hill said.

A student survey revealed that many students have dads, brothers, and uncles in Iraq right now, said Hill, whose nephew currently is serving in Baghdad.

"I wanted to honor my family,” Scott, and eighth-grader, said. “We've had many members in the military throughout the years."

News of Hawthorne’s penny drive rolled as far as Capitol Hill.

“The success of Hawthorne Middle School students in this penny drive reflects a refreshing sense of civic duty and national pride,” Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said. “It’s indicative of the influence of strong families and educators at this Idaho school.

“I commend them on their generosity and commitment to our military, and I call our nation’s attention to the students, parents and teachers of Hawthorne Middle School as models of committed patriotism and selfless giving,” Crapo said.

The kids learned that there’s no amount too small when giving to our troops, Hill said. “I’m really proud of these kids,” she said. “You hear a lot about what’s wrong. Well, this is an example of what’s really right with American youth. If we give them the opportunity they will measure up.”

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