Penny Harvest students come together to celebrate a year of service learning.

During this school year, nearly 3,000 students from seven local elementary schools were very busy growing and learning, like the rest of their school-aged peers in Columbus. But these students took learning to a new level by taking an active role as citizens serving and supporting the needs in their community. The students participated in the Penny Harvest pilot program in central Ohio by collecting and donating $15,114.16 to local charities making sure every penny made a difference.

Partnering with See Kids Dream, a local charitable organization focused on empowering children to engage in their communities, the Penny Harvest service learning program calls on elementary schools around the country to collect pennies and conduct research on local community needs. All the money raised is then donated to a charity of the students' choice.

Starting in December, students from Columbus City (Dana Elementary, Devonshire Alternative, Colerain Elementary) and Worthington (Granby Elementary, Liberty Elementary, Wilson Hill Elementary and Slate Hill Elementary) school districts joined forces and collected more than 1.5 million pennies.

Once the money was collected each school selected a small council of students who talked, debated and decided on which causes and charities they wanted their money to go toward. Their choices included organizations in areas such as human rights, underprivileged children, animal care and environmental projects.

The 2009 Columbus Penny Harvest donations will be directed to the following organizations:

Dana Elementary $500 to Community Crime Patrol, Inc.
$500 to Volunteers of America, Columbus

Devonshire Elementary - $1264.31 to Rails to Trails
$1264.33 to City Year Columbus

Granby Elementary - $821.16 to Adopt a Neighborhood
$943.15 to Kids 'n Kamp
$1,400 to Nancy's Place & Community Garden
$364.33 to Faith Mission housewarming baskets

Liberty Elementary - $1,000 to Charity Newsies
$1,000 to Hocking County Soil and Water Conservation District
$1,000 to Columbus Dog Connection
$528.66 to Assistance League Metro Columbus

Wilson Hill Elementary - $600 to Animal Outreach
$964.33 to the Columbus Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure
$964.33 to Make A Wish Foundation

Slate Hill Elementary - $600 to Nationwide Children's Hospital
$300 to Pets Without Parents
$100 to Park Clean-up

Colerain Elementary - $1,000 to Clintonville/Beechwold Community Resource Center

Students at each school also will be donating time and services to different charities including the Dowd Center, Columbus Dog Connection, school supply drive for Avondale Elementary School, Animal Outreach, the Make Recycling Mandatory letter writing campaign and the No Texting letter writing campaign.

The 2008/2009 school year marks Penny Harvest's inaugural year in Columbus. It grew from one father's dilemma about how to respond to his four-year-old daughter's wish to comfort a homeless man in New York in 1991. His quest to provide a meaningful way for his daughter to help that man gave birth to a program that now provides all children a way to help. Today, more than 1,000 schools all across the country participate annually in the program. Since 1991, students have donated more than 25 million service hours and $7 million in grants. The year-long service learning program gives our youngest citizens the knowledge, tools and power to strengthen their communities through philanthropy, service and civic action.

See Kids Dream is a Columbus-based charitable organization with a mission to empower children to engage their communities. Funding for the organization's programs such as the Penny Harvest comes entirely through corporate and private sponsorship. The organization was founded by two local parents with a passion for engaging children in service. Huntington National Bank has agreed to process all the change collected by the students. Funding for the materials needed to support the program in area schools was provided by the Worthington AM Rotary. To learn more about both of these programs, visit www.SeeKidsDream.org.