Students add boxes of cereal at the front of View Ridge Elementary. The school-wide goal for the food drive was 500 boxes, which was met Monday, Dec. 12. Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

Student-led food drive blows goal ‘out of the water,’ collects more than 600 boxes of cereal

BREMERTON — In this season of giving, one elementary school has turned a monthly leadership theme of generosity into a school-wide project of giving to others.

View Ridge Elementary school has a leadership team every month that focuses on different leadership themes. In December, the theme was to be generous. As teacher Kathryn Sprague said, “When the kids came in for the first week, we said, ‘Let’s decide how we are going to help the rest of our kids at the school to be generous.’

“They wanted to do a food drive,” she said of the team that consists of second through fifth graders this month. “We talked about what would be easiest to bring in, lightest, fit in a backpack and be affordable. They decided that they wanted to do cereal.”

The decision was made after the team viewed wish lists from local food banks. Boxes of cereal is an item that can provide 11 or 12 meals per box, and thus is a popular request. This particular food drive is benefitting the Bremerton Foodline.

“Then we talked about if we wanted it to be a competition between classes. They decided as a group that they’d rather it just be different reward levels rather than a competition so that everybody could participate,” Sprague said.

The leadership team kept track of how many boxes each individual class brought in. At 20 boxes, a class would receive donut holes. At 30, they would earn “pajama day.” Forty boxes meant getting to participate in a winter-themed art activity in class. Bringing in 50 boxes would earn a class an “elf breakfast” with school’s principal Korene Calderwood.

“They came up with those (rewards) based on the average size of classes,” Sprague said. “Then they decided to do a school-wide pool … there’s about 430 kids and 70 adults, so they went with the goal of 500 (boxes) for a whole school. If we reach 500, on Friday they get to give our principal a cereal and milk shower.”

On Monday, Dec. 12, with only one day left in the cereal drive, the school kids not only met their goal of 500 boxes — they surpassed it by more than 100. At the end of the collection period Monday afternoon, the total tally of cereal boxes donated was 607.

“We do food drives about every year,” Sprague said, “but this was the first one that the kids came up with and they figured out what they wanted to do and what the different rewards would be. It was really successful compared to past food drives, and I think it was because we had so much buy-in from the kids. They helped design it, and they went and encouraged their own classrooms throughout the school.”

Four classrooms at View Ridge reached the highest reward level before collection on Monday. Some individual students made huge differences for their classrooms: One student brought in 72 boxes of cereal. Others brought in 50.

“It’s all student-generated,” Sprague said. “They do all the work, and I get to supervise and make sure they’re not screaming and running through the halls. But they’ve done a really good job and it’s been fun to see.

“I think they didn’t believe that we could get there, and I don’t think the staff really believed that we would get there until, all of a sudden, we went, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re going to do it.”

At collection time, students would go in groups to other classrooms and collect the donations, bring them back to the leadership room where the boxes were tallied by the class and entered into a spreadsheet, which was displayed on a projector screen.

“It’s been really cool to see them get so excited every time we hit a new hundred, every time a new class has hit a new goal,” Sprague said. “Everybody celebrates. It’s pretty emotional to see how excited they are at each step of the way.”

Not only does the Bremerton Foodline benefit from this drive, the students do, too.

“I think it builds that sense of community and it helps them to see what it feels like to be generous and to help,” Sprague said. “It gives them a sense of ownership of their community and the ability to see how they can affect all the people around them, and that’s what I’ve seen as we’ve done this. At first, it was just, well, ‘It’s a good thing.’ But they’ve really taken it on and are very passionate about what they’re doing and how it’s going.”

Hundreds of donated boxes of cereal were given to the Bremerton Foodline on Thursday, Dec. 15. After the success of this food drive, Sprague suspects that the spring drive, which will benefit the Bremerton Backpack Brigade, will also be student-led.

To learn more about the Bremerton Foodline, visit bremertonfoodline.org.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

Students add newly donated boxes of cereal to the collection in the View Ridge Elementary lobby. Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

Kathryn Sprague, right, and her students update the tally of donated cereal boxes Monday, Dec. 12. The total count when they finished was 607 boxes of cereal. Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

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