Students present funds they raised to charities in Common Cents program

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Students who attend schools across Dallas ISD convened on Wednesday, Feb. 28, for the annual check presentations in the Common Cents Dallas “Pennies from the Heart” campaign.

The program charges student-led teams with raising funds for charities of their own choosing. More than 200 students from 19 Dallas ISD schools participated this year.

Common Cents grew from an idea proposed in 1988 by late Dallas philanthropist Louise Gartner. Every penny collected benefits the charities chosen by students, who also lead all the fundraising efforts. Now in its 20th year, Dallas ISD students have raised and donated more than $875,000 during the life of the program. For the 2017-2018 school year, students raised more than $37,000.

“You can be any age and raise any amount to be a philanthropist and help others in need,” said Gigi Gartner, co-founder of Common Cents. “This program is 100 percent student-driven. They learn philanthropy, fundraising and leadership skills, which enriches their lives and better prepares them for the future. Step by step, penny by penny these students are helping to change the world. The students are the heroes.”

Students’ efforts are guided by campus sponsors. Sally Anderson sponsored students this year at Seagoville North Elementary School.

“The student roundtable wanted to support the Seagoville Animal Shelter for a second time,” Anderson said. “The students love the idea of helping this no-kill facility and its volunteer organization,. The Common Cents program allows 8- and 9-year-old students try out their leadership skills while exercising their love of helping others in our own community.”

A $3,000 scholarship named after Common Cents founder Louise Gartner went to Dexter Law, a student at Skyline High School. His school also raised the most total money – more than $6,000.

The value of learning the importance of giving goes beyond the dollars.

“Common Cents teaches the key fundamentals of philanthropy, enabling students to actively impact their communities,” said Dave Scullin, president and CEO of Communities Foundation of Texas, which manages the Common Cents scholarship funds. “The program provides a forum for students to identify community needs, to plan and organize fundraising activities, and finally to fund local nonprofits.”

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