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Conejo Students Read Their Way to Success – and Computers

“Earlier this year, parents at the Conejo Elementary School realized that the school had a need for technology in the classroom, so I did a little bit of research,” said parent Laurie Ross. “A majority of the schools are using computers. Why aren’t we?” 

Parents knew that CAES received a six-year accreditation renewal by the Accrediting Association of Seventh-day Adventist Schools and the National Council for Private Schools. The accrediting committee discussed ideas with the school for continuous improvements, which included obtaining classroom computers and upgrading the internet.  

Volunteer Cathie Cook brought Baillie, a therapy dog, to visit the school during the read-a-thon. (l. to r.) Readers included Lauren Schmucker, Isaac Meager, Benji Ramos, Zahir Gomez, and Ivy Keenan (reading). Photo by Joan Hsu
Volunteer Cathie Cook brought Baillie, a therapy dog, to visit the school during the read-a-thon. (l. to r.) Readers included Lauren Schmucker, Isaac Meager, Benji Ramos, Zahir Gomez, and Ivy Keenan (reading). Photo by Joan Hsu

 “We need to have this happen,” Ross thought. When some of Ross’ friends in the Northern California Conference told her about “read-a-thons” their schools had done, she asked, “What does this involve?”

Ross learned from her friend, Lian Funada, a single mom, that Adventist schools in northern California raise up to $18,000 from a single read-a-thon. Funada explained that read-a-thons are great because students are involved in reading books, getting sponsors, and also that they may take ownership in achieving a common goal.

“Perfect!” Ross thought. “What can we do to bring in a lot of donations, but at the same time, have it not cost a lot to produce?”

“At our school,” continued Ross, “we had prizes so the students would be motivated. If a student read a certain amount and brought in a certain number of sponsors, they would be rewarded. For prizes, we gave Barnes & Noble gift cards to those who read 1,500 minutes and raised $150. Twenty students raised that amount. We also had an Amazon gift card, and the grand prize was an iPad mini.”

Ross went to businesses to solicit sponsorships. “What a great platform to get the word out about our school and to support a great cause!” she said.    

“Our goal was to get 100% participation in reading minutes and for the entire school to take ownership of this fundraiser,” continued Ross. “We achieved those goals. The class with the highest number of reading minutes got a pizza and ice cream party.”

Eighth grader Kaitlyn Stubbert read 10,520 minutes.  Kindergartener Isaac Meager raised the most money, soliciting $4,150 in sponsor money. Photo by Joan Hsu   
Eighth grader Kaitlyn Stubbert read 10,520 minutes.  Kindergartener Isaac Meager raised the most money, soliciting $4,150 in sponsor money. Photo by Joan Hsu   


Corporate sponsors helped the volunteers reach their goal by giving gift cards for prize incentives. Costco donated money toward an iPad mini.

“We don’t know how much money the students are going to bring in,” Ross thought. “We tried to motivate them, including different prize levels: gold, bronze, free dress pass, extra 15-minute recess. I focused my attention on corporate sponsors, which was surprising, because asking for money is not my comfort zone. It was for a great cause that I believed in, so I realized that I could.

“This is amazing! You’re saying yes,” Ross thought when a donor gave money. “Some donors didn’t have kids in the school. Some were alumni or church members. A personal blessing I received was realizing how many people are willing to support Adventist education. You find that out when you ask. Wow!”

“The students brought in close to $10,000 of that amount,” said Ross. “It being our first read-a-thon, we were so happy to get students involved. They worked really hard. We could see on their faces that it was fun for them.”


The award ceremony had a “Price Is Right” theme. School secretary Lynn Sandman emceed and the staff were the contestants. They guessed how many minutes the whole school read. The Technology Committee’s initial goal had been to raise $10,000, for 30 Chromebooks and a Mobility charge card for them to charge the computer overnight. At the Award Ceremony after the four-week Read-a-thon, it was announced that the project had raised $26,231.81 in donations alone.

 

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