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Raising the roof


Pleasant Valley Elementary raises $2,289.50 for Kenya Keys

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Having a bet with Mrs. E to spend the day on the roof further inspired students to raise money for Kenya Keys. When they reached $1,800, staff members held a crazy dress-up day.

Principal Laurie Ernstrom passed notes to students in a bucket, blew bubbles onto the recess crowds and played '90s music from her oasis on top of Pleasant Valley Elementary School.

Thursday, May 2, Ernstrom fulfilled a bet with her student council, spending the entire day on the roof after her students raised $2,289.50 for the nonprofit organization Kenya Keys. She managed to work, too, toting paperwork and a laptop with an extension cord.

“Their interest level was incredibly high, and I give credit to these kids for coming up with this,” Ernstrom said with a laugh.

In Nyari, the poorest education district of Kenya, there is no electricity, running water, mail service or Internet. Pleasant Valley’s sister school has dirt floors, and its roof was destroyed by a windstorm.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Student council member Kadyn Skipper, a fifth-grader, helped organize her schools partnership with Kenya Keys. Alexis Henderson, a third-grader, said students rallied to raise money after a March assembly.

“We were so sad for them and wanted to help,” said Alexis Henderson, a third-grade member of student council.

From early March into April, Pleasant Valley students smashed their piggy banks, talked to their grandparents and hosted lemonade stands in hopes of raising money for their sister school.

Thanks to the students' efforts, Pleasant Valley will replace a roof and provide desks and supplies for its sister school.

“We do this with a lot of elementary schools, and I couldn’t believe how active and unified the student council was,” said Rinda Hayes, executive director of Kenya Keys. “This school has so much heart.”

Hayes made a presentation to the school about the sister school, showing pictures of Kenyan students and displaying artifacts that tugged at Pleasant Valley’s heartstrings.

Students were spurred on by Pleasant Valley faculty, who dressed up in crazy outfits after the school raised $1,800. But raising “Ms. E” on the roof for the day was the ultimate inspiration.

The partnership originated when fifth-grader Kadyn Skipper’s aunt described her friend Rinda’s nonprofit organization, Kenya Keys, which matched schools in the United States with sister schools in rural Kenya through a program called the Global Classroom.

A bookworm, Kadyn thought it was horrible the Kenyan students didn’t have a library and books, and introduced Kenya Keys to Pleasant Valley.

It's a partnership Pleasant Valley students and faculty say has raised school spirit unlike any other fundraiser and event.

"We really felt connected," Kadyn said. "It's amazing."

Founded in 2005 by Hayes and her husband, Brent, Kenya Keys is an educational organization that creates partnerships between Americans and Kenyans, matching American schools with sister schools in rural Kenya.

For more information about Kenya Keys, visit kenyakeys.org.