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School assignment turns fundraiser

Winners of the Charity Essay Contest include, front from left, Reed Benson, Mckenzie Mastin, Marisa Pace, Gunner Graphenteen; back from left, Tate Kerzman, Grant Fritch-Gallatin, Riley Chase, Gracee Traurig. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Detroit Lakes Middle School sixth graders are at it again.

After contributing over $1,600 to the Becker County Food Pantry in November, more acts of kindness have gushed from these pre-teens. 

After learning how to write essays in language arts, students were set to a task: choose a charity, write a research-based persuasive essay and present it to their classmates. The classes then voted for “whichever charity they found more needing and deserving” as Alexis Butcher, 12, explained. 

After weeks of hard work, their grasp of essays surged. What they accomplished, however, equated to so much more.

Students earned money to contribute to their class jars. Some did chores around the house, helped on the farm or babysat. Others picked up loose change, donated allowances or contributed extra birthday money. 

Katie Glander, 11, explains: “I told my friends and family about this worthy cause. I showed them the presentation about my charity to give them an idea of how it works. They were very happy to donate and knew the money was going to a great cause.”

It started with a few coins as penny banks started to empty. Dollar bills began to trickle in. Soon the 11 and 12 year olds were engulfed with the project, and teachers couldn’t keep up with the tally. At final count, the sixth graders at DLMS contributed $571.72, which will be dispersed to eight diverse charities: Hope for Paws, Humane Society, Epilepsy Foundation, TeacHaiti, Charity Waters, Detroit Mountain, American Red Cross, and Autism Speaks.  

Why go through all this work?

Benjamin Heimark, 12, learned, “It’s good to give to people who need a little push to get going.” 

Taylor Prussia, 12, added, “After you learn about how others are struggling, it gives you a better and more knowledgeable view of the world around you. When you help them, it makes you a better person.”

Many students connected on a personal level. Gunner Graphenteen, 11 noted, “I chose Autism Speaks because I have autism, and I wanted to help other people with this disorder. I learned that some people were not aware of Autism Speaks until I used this charity for my essay.”

Cameron Hutchinson, 12, chose to research Honor Flight, a charity that helps veterans view memorials created in their honor. As Cameron put it, “After researching my charity, I felt attached to these veterans.  I really wanted to help them. I learned that everyone can use a hand at times.”

So, at the end of the day, this lesson on persuasive essays turned into so much more. With excitement, Brea Johnston, 12, proclaims, “It gives you a good feeling when you help. At the end of the day, I’m just happy to make someone or something better!”