Students learn to 'pay it forward'

More than a dozen children from Roosevelt Elementary presented a $1,000-check to the Burbank Temporary Aid Center on Tuesday — the fruit of a month-long focus on compassion.

Pedro Torres, a client services manager for BTAC, accepted the check on behalf of the nonprofit on the playground of Roosevelt Elementary School.

He said the money will contribute to sack lunches that the center distributes daily for the homeless. They include water, crackers with tuna or chicken.

“We buy cereal, peanut butter and jelly, canned soup — basic stuff that goes right into their stomachs — the most basic need we have,” Torres said.

Of the $1,300 the students raised this year, the remaining $300 will be sent to the Happy Hearts Fund that serves children in areas devastated by a natural disaster — in this case, the tsunami and earthquake in Japan.

Kindergarten teacher Kathy Wills-Sarna instituted the program three years ago and called it “Change Squared,” on the basis that a little change can change the world.

At first, it was meant to teach a math lesson on probability: If each student brought in one coin every day, how much money would the class have by the end of the month?

But students often didn’t bring just one coin. Instead, they’d arrive at school with handfuls.

Fellow Roosevelt teachers promoted the idea by placing bins for coins in their classrooms. Students and their families responded.

Teachers have since added a writing component to the project by asking their students to write essays on what they would like to do to change the world.

“These kids are the ones who will make the world different for us,” Wills-Sarna said. “If we don’t teach them about service and how to take care of things, then we’re really in a lot of trouble.”

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