Without purpose, one’s journey lacks a destination worth remembering or sharing. For me, I found purpose in a milk jug that sat in my classroom in a journey that began four years ago.
One day I grabbed the empty Joya-collection-jug in my class and raised it in the air and commanded, “Today, we are beginning the Penny Drive. We as a class are going to bless these children one penny at a time.”
Of course, I will never ask you to do anything that I will not do myself. Thus, I will match whatever is collected at the end of the drive.” I then pulled some change from my pocket, removed the lint, and dropped it in the jug. Shaking it like a rattle can, I walked around the room as students dropped change and even bills into the jug. Similar speeches were offered throughout the day. What I didn’t expect was the passion my students had to bless others while making their teacher PAY!
Each day of our penny drive journey, I shared beautiful stories from Joya’s website about their children and families. In our discussions, I learned some of my own students had a family member helped by Joya and some had even been helped themselves. Their stories were powerful. We discovered our small collection had more purpose than we imagined. We were blessing Joya while celebrating our peers and family members who overcame great challenges. It ceased to be a “run-of-the-mill” fundraiser and became about community.
While chatting with Mr. Carroll and high-fiving kids in the hallway, a student in my first period, approached and went to hand me a folded sum of money. The outer bill was a $20. Being that I teach at our inner-city school, I responded, “I know that you need this. I want you to take it back.”
My student responded with great sincerity, “Mr. Kiki, I have been thinking about Joya the past two days. I realized that I have some money in my savings account that I have been saving. After talking to my parents, I want to offer this to Joya. I want to know that my savings is an investment in others.”
He extended the money again as an offering. Holding back my own emotion, I accepted his gift. Back in my room, I counted and placed his donation in the Joya jug. It totaled $200.
Over the years, I have discovered those with the least often give the most. Thank you.
We all have influence—a celebrity through our own social connections. People know us, look up to us and care about us. I asked my students to use their celebrity to invite others to join in blessing the children and families at Joya. A student in my fourth period class, generously donated $185. His aunt, a hair stylist, donated her tips twice, grandpa gave two artillery shells filled with pennies, and his mom also helped. His example was echoed by so many students.
By the end of the two-week drive, I (along with several friends) matched what the students raised. Together, we donated $2853.30. Our journey was filled with purpose that is worth remembering and worthy of sharing.
Column written by North Central High School teacher Kelly Kiki, pictured above with Harper and her mom, Hagan, a Joya spokes-family.