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Free rent

A 274-unit mobile home park 20 miles north of Los Angeles has been in the news lately because of the owner's generous effort to help children living there.

Last fall, Mark Williams, the owner of Simi Country Estates in Simi Valley, offered a month's free rent to families whose children in grades K-12 earned straight A's and had perfect attendance in the first semester of school.

The result? Seven families saved anywhere from $320 to $450 in rent, thanks to their children's efforts. And the program will continue in the second semester.

There was so much interest, in fact, that Mr. Williams created four categories of cash prizes, from $5 to $25 per student, to reward every child who brought a report card, regardless of grades or attendance, to Ty and Mary McMullen, the park's managers.

"We've received a massive response and numerous letters from people across the country who heard about us in the news," Mr. McMullen said in an interview.

And with a month of free rent on the line, the program is certainly prompting parents to pay attention to how their children do in school. "The kids are getting a bonus," Mr. McMullen said. "Parents tell the children that they'll get half [the savings] if they earn straight A's."

Trading cards

In the hallways, classrooms, and playgrounds of Sage Creek Elementary School in Springville, Utah, students have been swapping telling details about the lives of some notable heroes.

A set of glossy trading cards created this year by the local PTA to promote reading features the pictures of local celebrities and role models--even teachers and administrators are featured in the mix--on one side, and lists their favorite books on the other.

One card features Picabo Street, who won an Olympic gold medal in super giant slalom skiing this year after coming back from an injury. On her trading card, she says her favorite book is, fittingly, The Other Side of the Mountain, about a skier who overcomes adversity. Another reader featured is Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, who loves Where the Green Fern Grows.

There are 108 different cards, and students acquire them monthly after completing a list of reading-related tasks.

The program cost Sage Creek's PTA $2,500. Steve Maughn, the principal of the 500-student K-5 school, says it's been well worth it.

"The cards have worked very well to motivate kids, especially in the lower grades," he said.


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