The Daily Mash-Up

Sunday, November 29, 2015 This Week's Paper
Students learn, nonprofits benefit: a win-win in Tacoma schools

On May 28, James Hardie Siding Company representatives Amy Launiuvao, Kevin Johnson and Adam Gapsch stopped by to surprise teacher Kathleen Casper’s Fawcett Elementary School’s 3rd grade JAWS Highly Capable Program class with pizza and treats for winning a special award for being the top team in a project where more than 100 JAWS students competed to create designs of “back safety” banners for the James Hardie warehouse.

In turn, the students showered the representatives with thank you cards and cheers because with their $500 donation to several local charities in the classes’ honor, the James Hardie Siding Company was their biggest donor in their “Apprentice Game Project.”

All of Casper’s five classes of highly capable students from across the city of Tacoma participated in this unique program that she created in order to connect nonprofit organizations, local businesses, families and the students to special education opportunities. In the project, teams of students participate in challenges similar to the format of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice” television game show. Each student picked from a list of nonprofit organizations that each spent an entire week at the beginning of the school year teaching the students about their issues. Then businesses and individuals including many friends and relatives of the students pledged donations in exchange for the student teams completing projects that the donors could use in their businesses or homes.

Some needed designs for brochures, reviews of books they wrote, packaging for tea light candles they sold, name tag designs for their organizations, and more. The donations ranged in dollar amounts from $7 to over $100 at first, with the donors sending the funds directly to the nonprofits after choosing the winning team’s product and being directed to the winning team’s chosen charity. But when the James Hardie Siding Company pledged $500 the classes were ecstatic. They knew that was a lot of money for the local nonprofits.

“$500 is good because it can do more to help and cover bigger projects for the nonprofits,” said Alexi Zygmunt, 4th grader from Edison Elementary.

Jarod Gilmore, a 4th grader from Manitou Park Elementary also understands the impact that $500 can make, saying “It’s good to help the organizations to help their dreams come true.”

With the James Hardie Siding Company donation, the five classes of Casper’s JAWS students at both Fawcett and Skyline Elementary Schools raised almost $1,000 for local Tacoma nonprofits such as Citizens for a Healthy Bay, D.A.S.H. Center, Habitat for Humanity, The Humane Society, St. Leo’s Food Connection, and United Way’s Youth United.

The students learned a lot from having audiences from real businesses and individuals, they had to manage their time and materials and work well with each other. Even though no one was actually “fired” like the Donald Trump T.V. show, with each new project, a new project manager was chosen from the team and given the authority to make all the team decisions- a great honor, but also a great responsibility as the students evaluated each other’s participation and contributions strictly after each round, usually giving the project manager the most criticism.

“I learned how to cooperate and let other people have a turn, and I was really happy that the nonprofits got money because I think they will use that money to help other people and the city,” said Jane Sikes, also a 4th grader from Manitou Park.

These students are now more confident they can work in team situations in the future and produce all sorts of products, and also know that even as children they can affect change in the community.

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