Archived Story

Cleveland fifth-graders pay it forward

Published 11:01am Friday, June 21, 2013

When Carol Rengel told her fifth-graders at Cleveland Elementary they had received $1,000 from Bell State Bank’s Pay it Forward program, she expected the cheers from excited students. After she told them they would be giving the money to charity, however, she was pleasantly surprised.

“When they first heard it, of course, they all hooted and hollered, thinking it meant a $1,000 for ice cream or something like that,” Rengel said. “But, honestly, they were even more excited after I told them it would go toward charity.”

Rengel received the money from a friend who works at the bank. Through the program, employees receive $1,000 to pass on to help others. The company has committed more than $1.5 million to those in need through the program.

The money was split between Rengel’s two classes and she challenged them to decide where the funds would go. They immediately started a list of possible charities and causes, many that the students were already involved with in their personal life. The class invited several groups and listened to presentations about what would be done with the money.

“Just having these speakers come in and give their presentations gave such insight,” she said. “They took notes and could ask questions — very good questions. They were all very curious about everything. That’s when I saw the wheels turning.”

After a week of presentations, Rengel moderated a respectful discussion over where the class wanted the money to go. From there, the classes voted and celebrated after they made a decision. Rengel’s morning class chose to give to the Minnesota Veterans Home for recreational activities, and the afternoon class chose Orphan Adoption Ministries at Calvary Free Lutheran Church.

While it started as an opportunity to give her students the satisfaction of charity, Rengel said the gift turned into a valuable lesson on the importance of decision making.

“It ended up being quite rewarding,” Rengel said. “Not just for me and the class, but for the groups that came in saw how much thought the kids put into this.”

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