Monroe Students Turn Lemons into Dollars

It was supposed to be hot and sunny Tuesday, the kind of weather that makes thirsty folks pull over when they see an enterprising bunch of kids with cool drinks for sale at roadside stands. Instead the day broke cloudy, muggy and occasionally leaky, but not enough to dampen the spirits of the summer school students at Monroe Elementary. They opened for business right on schedule at 8:30 A.M. and started hawking lemonade to raise money for Heifer International. In a roundabout way they are doing their part to help the poor in third world countries turn their lemony lives into first lemonade and then into cows, chickens, sheep, rabbits, bees and trees.

Heifer International began its work in 1944 and operates on the principle that giving hungry people a loaf of bread feeds them for a day but teaching them to bake feeds them for a lifetime. Donations are used to provide them with impregnated cows whose calves are paid forward to neighboring villagers or bees whose hives produce honey that’s imperishable.

“Did you know that honey lasts forever?” beamed 5th grader Yanas Morgan to one of the group’s satisfied customers. He and the rest of the natural born, irresistible sales staff had already reaped more than a hundred dollars by 9:30, the uncooperative weather notwithstanding.

The kids at Monroe are winding up a three-week summer program made possible by a grant from 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC). Besides service learning projects like the lemonade stand and a flower garden that will benefit the residents at nearby Jacobs Place, a senior living facility, 115 students in grades 1-5 have spent time in the classroom honing skills learned during the regular school calendar so they don’t atrophy during the summer recess, and making field trips to venues including Camp Dodge and the butterfly garden at Saylorville Lake. Monroe also serves as one of the district’s summer meals sites and serves breakfast and lunch to students and their families each day.

Monroe literacy teacher Julia Frey was managing the first shift and promoting inventory besides lemonade and iced tea. Also available were friendship bracelets and key chains the kids have made and those too were popular items in the parking lot boutique.

“The kids have been very enthused about this project,” Frey said. “They feel empowered by the idea that what they’re doing will actually help people around the world improve their lives.”

Monroe’s Dean of Students, Jill Burke, said the same thing about the younger cohort and their gift of flowers to the old folks at Jacobs Center. “Between the service projects and the field trips and the additional classroom time this summer program really enriches their learning,” Burke declared. “We have a great staff at Monroe, including parent and grandparent volunteers.”

This first round of Monroe’s summer calendar winds up on Thursday before another one follows aimed at pre-k children.

But back to the “change for change” campaign: One of Yanas’s pals, fellow 5th grader Ishimwe Edison, was curbside trying to draw attention to the placard he held that was supposed to lure passersby off of busy Hickman Road and into the kids’ well-intentioned trap. A big semitrailer full of produce whizzed past and the driver returned Ishimwe’s wave. Then he gave his horn a good toot, much to the delight of the fundraisers. It almost sounded to them like a big donation.

Photos from the Monroe Lemonade Stand

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