Take Note

March 14, 2001 1 min read

Small Change

The children who attend Denison Elementary School, a 500-pupil Montessori school in Denver, have proved that saving every penny really does count.

When one of the school’s assistant teachers, Erin Hanrahan, 26, was sent by the Peace Corps to visit El Salvador in the wake of the January earthquake there, the students at Denison rallied behind their teacher and donated more than $2,000 to the relief effort.

“This really grew out of the children’s interest in communicating with Erin while she was away,” said Beth Hamilton, the assistant principal.

As the children learned more about the devastation caused by the earthquake, she said, they began asking to help.

The money came from two sources, Ms. Hamilton said. Students at Denison participate in a “pennies for peace” program. The school puts the money into an account set aside for school projects, and then it is distributed to a variety of worthy causes.

“One year, we donated the pennies toward a relief effort in Romania. The pennies have also gone toward supporting other Montessori schools,” Ms. Hamilton said.

The program had $2,000 in the kitty when students began appealing to school officials and teachers about assisting with the troubles in El Salvador. At their urging, the school agreed to send the money. But the youngsters didn’t stop there. They began petitioning the community at large to support the relief effort and raised another $1,200.

“Originally, the main goal was to help rebuild the home of the Alfaro family. Erin is staying with them,” Ms. Hamilton said. “But this effort could continue beyond that. The children are real excited about helping the people in El Salvador. They want to keep in touch with Erin and do all they can. At this point, nothing has been decided, but you never know.”

The school will soon send a check to Erin Hanrahan in El Salvador to help build a rebar-enforced house for her host family.

—Marianne Hurst

A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2001 edition of Education Week