Students raise funds to donate cow, chickens to needy

by Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Students in Trish Miller’s world cultures classes at Westwood Middle School have done it again.

Ethan Rushmeyer and Eleana Assimacopoulos are two of 135 students in Westwood Middle School World Cultures classes who raised money for Heifer International. They raised enough to purchase and send a cow and chickens to a village in need. Photo by Elyse Kaner

They’ve raised more than $550 for Heifer International as part of a class service project. The funds will purchase a cow and a few flocks of chickens to help raise a village out of poverty.

“The kids invested a lot of time and energy into this experience,” said Westwood Principal Paula Hoff. “I am very proud of their efforts and willingness to work so hard for those in need.

“Their excitement and enthusiasm speaks volumes as to what they have learned about cultures around our world and the needs that exist in our world.”

Focus on poverty

Miller’s classes focus on one service project per trimester. This time around, students in her four classes of sixth- and seventh-graders, 135 students total, chose to zero in on poverty.

Before deciding on a project, the students first study world problems.

“Rather than donate food for them, the students decided on how can we get them out of poverty,” Miller said.

They checked out videos of a goat that was donated to a family in India as part of Heifer International. The recipients must give the goats’ offspring to another family in need, who in turn will keep the goodwill gesture going.

Miller’s kids liked the idea of a program that promotes sustainability among a village. Through the Heifer International project it was.

To raise funds, Miller’s students hosted games during lunch time. Spin-a-wheel and bean bag games. And a coin drop. They sold tickets to a pizza party and sold treats after school. They also sold lollipops to parents to give to their kids during parent-teacher conferences, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Ethan Rushmeyer, a seventh-grader who worked on the Heifer project, liked the idea of hanging with his friends during the campaign and helping others in need. He particularly enjoyed setting up the projects and running the games.

“It was fun,” he said. “I like that we got to help out the needy.”

Surprised at generosity 

With request letter in hand, sixth-grader Eleana Assimacopoulos visited local pizza shops asking for donations for a school pizza party. The students would in turn sell tickets at $5 a pop.

Eleana was surprised at the generosity of those who donated pizzas: Jimbos, Pizza Hut in Circle Pines, two 5 Dollar Pizza shops in Blaine and Papa John’s near Northtown Mall.

“They were really generous with what they gave,” she said. But in working on the project, Eleana learned more than fund-raising skills.

“I learned we should help them more than just thinking about ourselves,” she said of those in need.

“It makes me happy to know that we helped a village out of poverty, we helped a family out of poverty and that we can share that with others,” Eleana said.

Miller plans to continue the service projects in future classes. Kids will have a choice of projects that involve helping to eradicate poverty, disease or to improve the environment

In past projects her students have donated water filters to families in Honduras and nets to children in Africa to help stop the spread of malaria.

“Next time we’ll probably focus on environmental concerns,” Miller said.

Heifer International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty. The organization is also dedicated to caring for the Earth.

Heifer International provides livestock, trees, seeds and environmentally sound agriculture training to families in more than 50 countries, including the United States, according to its website.

For more information, visit

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]

  • Min Da

    You Go Kids !!!

  • Awesome story. It is one thing to give people money or food it takes it to a whole new level when you help them to sustain themselves. We need more charities that work like this. A tip of the cap to the kids for choosing this type of giving.