The WMA Middle School has a long tradition of raising funds to support others in need, however, seven years ago a request was made to all the middle school advisee groups to see if anyone had a new and exciting way to raise funds for charity. It just so happens that a new student to our middle school at the time, Nora Harrington '13, had just the right idea. Nora and her family had moved to Wilbraham that summer from the Washington DC. In her previous school, they would raise funds for charity through a process called Penny Wars. The Penny Wars challenge is that each grade competes to determine who can accumulate the most pennies over a set time period. Each grade can accumulate pennies in one of two ways. One way is to donate pennies to their grade's jar. The second way is to contribute some denomination other than a penny to a competing grade's jar. A quarter would win in battle 25 pennies from a rival grade's jar into your grade's jar, a dollar, 100 pennies, and so on.
Prior to Nora's graduation I had time to speak with her about Penny Wars and her thoughts on what it does for the community. Nora said, "It really generates a lot of energy from the all the students in the community. The incentive of the winning class earning a pizza party or other prize really motivates students to participate.” At the time her advisee group was so supportive and enthusiastic about the idea that it was proposed to Mr. D'Avanzo and approved. That first year, spring of 2007, the Penny War's funds were donated to The Heifer Project.
Seven years later, Penny Wars is still a vital piece of our middle school program. The WMA Middle School Student Council, advised by Ms. Krassin, is empowered with the privilege to select the non-profit organization which will receive the donation, manage the communication of the activity, advertise and generate enthusiasm among their classmates, and to help develop a winning "battle" strategy. Ms. Krassin stated that she really enjoys this means of fund raising for many reasons. "The fact that pennies count, allows all students the ability to participate and contribute as able, no one is left out." There are many skills that are developed through this activity such as research and presentation skills when students educate their fellow classmates on the non-profit organization they are interested in having receive the donated funds, communication and strategizing skills on how best to forge the "battle", and rallying support from their "troops".
Over the last six years, the WMA Middle School through Penny Wars has raised over $10,000, and supported The Heifer Project, The Conductor of Terezin, Life Connection Mission in Haiti, Jambo Tanzania, and trees for Wilbraham through the Rotary Club. As you can imagine, this activity creates jars and jars of loose change, TD Bank for assisted them in counting out the $2,159.35 raised over the two weeks this past April. This year, in connection with our theme of water, the money raised will be donated to a program called Water for Sudan. Ms. Krassin stated that the all middle school read this past summer was a book called A long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park. "I am interested to see where the students choose to donate the funds next year. Our theme will be cities and that really opens the door for so many wonderful causes".
When asked how she felt about knowing that as she graduates from WMA that the fund raising activity of Penny Wars lives on in the middle school Nora said " I am really happy that it stuck and I am glad that the students are having fun while raising money for good causes." She is very happy to see that they continue to embrace the activity and said she may consider bringing the idea to Bard College this fall.