Paige Siemers, a teacher at Beckendorf Junior High says she is extremely proud of her students. Many would say she’s got good reason to be – they’ve raised more than $400,000 over …
Paige Siemers, a teacher at Beckendorf Junior High says she is extremely proud of her students. Many would say she’s got good reason to be – they’ve raised more than $400,000 over the last 14 years for nonprofits that range from Make A Wish to cancer charities through the fundraiser she coordinates called “Ready to Roll.”
“Fifteen years ago, I was approached by the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and they said, ‘Hey, we do this cool thing, it’s called Pennies for Patients.’”
Siemers wasn’t able to get involved in the program that first year due to her busy schedule at the time, she said. The program collects spare change from students to put towards cancer research and treatment. It is called “Ready to Roll” at the school because the coins collected must be rolled before being donated. However, she went back to the idea the following year and got the program going at Beckendorf with the help of Ted Vierling – principal at Beckendorf at the time and now Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Katy ISD.
In the first year, the students raised more than $10,000 for the Pennies for Patients program, Siemers said.
“We were the first school in the gulf coast region to raise over $10K,” Siemers said.
Their first trip to Bank of America to drop off the donations had all $10,000 plus in change and cash loaded up into Vierling’s truck and deposited. They later found that large amounts like they’d raised were supposed to be picked up by Brinks Security trucks, but it was their first year and a learning experience for both them and the bank, Siemers said.
At first the Pennies for Patients program was the only nonprofit that got assistance from the students, but eventually, students went from being passively involved. The program evolved as Siemers used the information and experience she accrued working with the program to teach students about how nonprofits worked and what a 501(C)(3) is. In time, the students wanted to have a say in where the money was going and learned how to research
A 501(C)(3) is a nonprofit entity that is tax exempt. The term is a reference to the chapter of federal law that establishes the tax exemption.
“Students started looking at banners [for charities] and then said, ‘Hey, can we start proposing charities?’,” Siemers said.
Siemers looked at it as a teaching opportunity and began showing students how to verify whether a nonprofit was legitimate and reputable through research. Once the students identified nonprofits they were interested in supporting, school staff began inviting nonprofits in to present a pitch to the students asking for their support.
Staff at Beckendorf have become heavily engaged as well, Siemers said. Offering rewards to the class for participation or fun challenges such as dying their hair purple if their class raises a certain amount of money. The program wouldn’t be as successful without their support and that of the parents who put their faith in the students, teachers and the program as a whole, she said.
“I don’t take it lightly that they trust my group of kids and this project with their donations,” Siemers said. “I mean, I have parents that write $1,000 checks. It’s not only the spare change, but they trust us with their donations.”
For the 2020 school year, students chose three different nonprofits to help through their fundraising efforts. Katy Wolfpack, Make-A-Wish and Lunches of Love were all supported by the Ready to Roll program. The total raised this year – without some online donations which had not been counted yet at the time of Katy Times’ interview with Siemers – was nearly $41,500.
“The fundraising goal is not my primary purpose,” Siemers said. “My primary goal is to educate people about the needs around us.”