HARKER HEIGHTS— Principal Carolyn Dugger stood proudly next to a large jar filled with nickels, dimes and pennies on a desk in the front office of Harker Heights Elementary School.

“This is just from today,” she said Monday, pointing to the jar. “It’s so wonderful to see these children bring in coins every day because they care and they want to help.”

As part of a schoolwide fundraising effort, students have brought in a little more than $4,290 in change, which will be donated to help fund leukemia and blood cancer research when the fundraising concludes at the end of the month.

“To these little children, a penny or a nickle means a lot,” Dugger said. “They know that even one penny can make a difference, and they want to participate.”

Dugger said the project was an idea the students themselves came up with as a way to honor the memory of Terrance Hunter, a young child who died of leukemia, whose siblings attend the school.

“They know they have peers that have been affected, so I think it makes things more personal for them,” she said.

The school’s staff and teachers initially expected to raise a small amount of money, but students quickly met and surpassed their expectations.

“The first thing I did was explain to them why we were doing this,” said Tula Rios, a bilingual teacher at Harker Heights Elementary. “They began bringing the money in. ... I was very proud of them.”

Even some parents were surprised at the students’ response.

“My son came home and got his piggy bank, then he went around the house collecting all my change,” said Harker Heights parent Felicita Gines. “He’s a good boy, and you could tell he wanted to help.”

This isn’t the first time the school has come together to work on a community service project. In the past, students from the school have done everything from collecting supplies for local animal shelters, writing letters to nursing home residents to simply cleaning up around their schools.

“We want to teach our students to care and to develop the idea of working to help their community,” Dugger said.

One of Rios’ students, first-grader Ashley Ortega, does care.

“It just feels good to give,” she said.

Contact Chris McGuinness at chrism@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.

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