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Students milk project for all its worth

Children show concern by raising funds for livestock
by: contributed photo, East Orient Elementary students with their returnable cans, from left, third row, Sam Pemberton, Steven Lane, Saige Anderson, Andrew McKay and Jaden Stoker, second row, Benjamin Panaite, Courtney Andersen, Madison Trickel, Caleigh Hornback, Kyla Thomas and Cydney BumGardner, first row, Julie Liggett, Kylee McIntyre, Eligio Aguilera Rodriguez, Youstina Hanna, Yuni Cervantes, James Sestric and Joel Farnham.

Students at East Orient Elementary School in Gresham recently had a cow.

They also had water buffaloes, goats and a llama as well as some chickens, bees and trees.

None of these animals or plants is at the school. But they are in the hearts and minds of the children who recently raised almost $2,800 for Heifer International, based in Little Rock, Ark., according to Tricia Bootzin, school counselor.

The nonprofit humanitarian group fights hunger and improves the environment by providing livestock, trees, training and other resources to help poor families throughout the world become self-reliant. Heifer International maintains a Web site at www.heifer.org.

Bootzin says the children at East Orient did such activities as donate their allowance or birthday money; give money earned by doing extra chores; and pass along refunds on recyclable cans and bottles or proceeds from car washes, flower or calendar sales to Heifer. First- and second-graders, for example, collected refunds on more than 1,700 bottles and cans, according to Heidi Jones, their teacher.

David Slocum and his wife, Judy Enders, Heifer's volunteer coordinators for the Portland-Vancouver area, went to the school Wednesday, April 18, to collect a check from the children and talk about the program during an assembly. Slocum said he and his wife were impressed by the children's efforts.

'We were just totally blown away,' Slocum said. 'We've gone to a lot of churches and a lot of schools, but the enthusiasm of these kids was just amazing.'

Children in each class voted on which animals or plants they wanted to sponsor, Bootzin says. For example, fourth-graders raised money for a 'Milk Menagerie,' comprising a heifer, two goats and a water buffalo.

Bootzin adds that she told the students 'this is not about your mommies and daddies writing a check. This is about you doing something for someone else in another country.'

Paul Guinea, who teaches fourth grade, says his students were excited about raising money to buy animals and plants for the poor.

'They really understood the process and were able to get jazzed about the whole process,' he says.

He adds that many of the students belong to families who own farm animals, so they could relate to families in other countries wanting livestock of their own. In fact, his class created a calendar illustrated with animal drawings and poems the students wrote, tying in the whole project to their study of the Lewis and Clark Trail. The calendars sold for $5 apiece and the class raised more than $1,000 in sales, he says.

Two of Guinea's students, Calvin Giusto and Monica Clark, both 10, drew a snake for July and a bald eagle, respectively. Calvin's poem could have been mistaken for lyrics Jim Morrison wrote in his Doors' heyday, and Monica clearly showed her patriotic side in her musings about the eagle.

'I am the King of California,' Calvin's snake says. 'I love the hot sun and breeze. I see what you see. I am so mighty, you won't believe I do what I want when I want.'

'Snakes are pretty cool,' Calvin says. 'I just like how snakes don't have any legs but like can slither around and stuff.'

Monica's eagle poem was equally assertive.

'I am an Air Force fighter. I am the hero of the skies. My mighty weapons attack enemies. I sweep, I swoop, I terrorize the skies.'

Monica says she's fond of the bald eagle because it symbolizes the United States.

'I think it symbolizes liberty most of the time, and that's pretty important,' she says. 'If we didn't have liberty, we wouldn't have many good things in the world.'

Both students say they were glad they played a role in raising money for Heifer International.

'We're a rich country,' Calvin says. 'Some families and countries aren't.'

Staci Wendland, whose son, Tucker is in the fifth grade, volunteers at East Orient and says her son and other students were excited to participate in the fund-raising effort for Heifer International.

'I think it just makes them feel good that they're taking care of other kids,' she says.