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Farmington students helping students

Farmington students wait to turn in some of the more than $8,000 in change they raised to help build a school in Kenya. The effort started with a trip to We Day Minnesota.1 / 2
Farmington High School junior Jason Lansing is organizing much of Farmington High School's We Create Change drive. He's also trying to raise $3,500 to travel to Kenya this summer and help to open a school there. 2 / 2

The chances are good that by Monday, Farmington students will have raised enough money to open a school in Kenya, and they’ll have done it in less than two months.

On Tuesday, a group of Farmington students and administrators went to Bremer Bank in St. Paul to count change. Lots of change. It turns out, they counted out $8,801.98 in change, all collected Jan. 17 through Feb. 24 for a project called We Create Change.

The change brings them close to their goal of $10,000 — the cost of building a school in Kenya through the Free The Children program.

Last fall, District 192 sent approximately 90 students to a youth empowerment and education event called We Day Minnesota. The students earned their attendance based on the charitable work they had done.

At We Day Minnesota, Farmington’s students learned about Free The Children’s Year of Education initiative, a year-long fundraising commitment to build 200 schools in communities served by Free The Children.

With that in mind, Free The Children launched the We Create Change program to help students reach out to their communities and collect change to raise the money to build some of the schools. Participating students received cardboard school houses that were used like banks to hold the change.

“Students can collect coins, any denomination, and put the money in the school houses,” said Free The Children’s associate director of public relations and publicity Julia Thomas. “The idea is that the money they put in those boxes goes toward building schools in our overseas communities.”

Students at FHS, both Dodge and Boeckman middle schools, and Riverview Elementary School all participated in collecting change. Each school and each group of students had its own way of collecting and tracking the change — at FHS, students put up a temporary wall near the entrance, and students stacked paper bricks to track their financial progress — but all of the money raised among the buildings represents Farmington’s overall contribution.

Until Tuesday, the Farmington group knew they were close to the goal, but they didn’t know just how close. The kids were pretty excited when they found out the total.

“It’s been quite a wonderful journey watching these kids reach out and realize they can make a difference,” Farmington High School assistant principal Theresa Agerter said. “Our kids are really jazzed about it. What’s so amazing about it is that they’re truly seeing that their effort can make change and can make a difference in someone else’s life.”

With a little less than $1,200 to go, the Farmington delegation set a new goal Tuesday. They want to raise that final $1,200 by Monday, March 3. They have a few in-school fundraisers planned for the rest of this week, and members will be out at sporting events, concerts and other activities in hopes of drumming up enough change to make their $10,000 goal by next week.

“Think of this,” Agerter said, “Free The Children’s goal is to raise enough money to build 200 schools. The community of Farmington, we have raised almost enough to build one school. That’s pretty amazing.”

His own journey

At the core of Farmington’s We Create Change campaign is FHS junior, Jason Lansing. Lansing has connected himself to a separate Free The Children project called Me to We.

Through his own campaign, Lansing hopes to raise $3,500 so he can go to Kenya this summer and help build the school Farmington is funding through We Create Change.

“It’s something that I am very passionate about,” Lansing said. “I am very passionate about education and other people. I think it will be a really awesome opportunity and it will be life-changing.

“It will be great to make an impact on another community across the ocean,” he added.

Lansing is very close on his goal, too. He’s got less than $1,000 to go.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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