Paying it Forward at Studebaker Elementary School

Students pushing cart with food

Fifth graders Natalee Richardson, Lexie Bingham, Eric Millard, Jack Huffman, Kennedy Hopkins and Aiden Rinker making the rounds at Studebaker Elementary School for their food drive.

The book that inspired a movie and a movement, Pay it Forward, hasn’t lost its touch.

“We have a group of fifth grade students who have decided, on their own after reading a book in class, to run a food drive for the next two weeks,” e-mailed Studebaker Elementary principal Brian Crook. “They organized it and are completely running it themselves.”

So we went out to take a look.

Fifth grade students of Paula Banowetz recently read the middle grade edition of the story about a boy named Trevor who plants a tree of kindness that branches out far and wide. For a project upon completion of the book, one of the literature circles in Banowetz’s class decided on some serious action in the spirit of the assigned theme, Spread the Kindness.

Natalee Richardson, Lexie Bingham, Eric Millard, Jack Huffman, Kennedy Hopkins and Aiden Rinker are coordinating a collection of nonperishable food items that runs through next Friday, May 12th. Every school morning the six Samaritans take a flatbed cart and make the rounds of the school classrooms to pick up the day’s donations.

Totals are tallied by grade level. When the drive is over the most generous grade gets to party and celebrate its food philanthropy.

Lexie is the keeper of the clipboard. Kennedy is second in command. Aiden lends an air of precision to the team with a sharp pencil at the ready behind his ear. Natalee coordinates the layout of a promo in a hallway display case and packing of the proceeds into boxes. Eric’s cheeriness sets the group’s mood and complements a fresh-looking businesslike haircut. Jack likes to push and ride the cart. He comes in handy muscling boxfuls of cans to the top of the steadily mounting stacks, too.

The members of the group take turns making intercom announcements at the end of each day to update their schoolmates on the standings of the Studebaker food derby. Halfway through the race, 3rd grade is in the lead. A total of just over 700 items were gathered in the first week of the drive.

The girls roll their eyes often, but discreetly, at the antics of the boys. Generally, they cooperate with one another and agree on the assignment of tasks.

After the kindergarten donations were inventoried Friday morning, it was off to the 2nd grade pickup station. Eric gunned the empty cart up a ramp in the corridor with Jack aboard and steered briefly off course, pulling to a stop before bumping a bank of lockers.

“Boys – what can you do?” says Kennedy, feigning exasperation. Really, they’re all having a good time doing a good deed together, one that lets the whole school in on the fun. Just look at Eric, grinning.

The Food Bank of Iowa will come to collect the sum total of Studebaker’s forward progress on May 15th. By then it will be substantial, thanks primarily to six 5th graders who got together and read a good book.

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