First graders across the nation are accustomed to sharpening their money skills.

But the first grade students at Oakwood Elementary went beyond counting pennies and dimes.

They led a school-wide drive to raise $1,326.56 in just four days for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Principal Denise Hudson said the first grade students decorated their own donation cans, visiting from classroom to classroom as they worked on their skills with coins. First grade teacher Noelle Stambaugh said she has been teaching her students about compassion and caring, discussing what it would be like if the damage had occurred at their school and in their neighborhoods — looking at solutions of how to help from Hannibal. Fellow first grade teacher Terra Murphy agreed with Stambaugh that the students took ownership of the drive as soon as they heard the idea, decorating the cans themselves, collecting coins each day and counting the donations with help from their teachers.

After just four days, Murphy and Stambaugh proudly held up a large, colorful “check” reflecting the $1,326.56 donation. First grader Gracelyn Anderson experienced a range of emotions when she learned about the devastation left behind by the hurricane, noting that her heart “felt bad” when she saw what happened — but her heart felt happy knowing everyone could help. She was happy that she and other students “have been collecting money so we can give stuff to them.”

Anderson summed up the amount of the donation with a big smile, saying it was “a lot.” Fellow first grade student Preston McGuire agreed with Anderson.

“It’s really kind of sad that all of their buildings, their school, their homes cracked down,” he said. “But now, we’re collecting money for them to get much more, like get stuff for the school — like benches and all kinds of books and stuff,” he said.

During recess, the first grade classes gathered together with smiles, knowing that their hard work and leadership skills would soon make a positive difference hundreds of miles away.

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