Cullman elementary school collects cash for Japan

CULLMAN, ALA. (WBRC) - It's a big red jar, sitting just inside the front door at East Elementary in Cullman. Red in honor of Japan. What's inside, though is overwhelming to Principal David Wiggins.  

"We're teaching more important things than just academics," Wiggins said.  "More than ABC's and 123's. We're teaching the sense of character and citizenship."

That teaching lesson is all thanks to 11-year-old 5th grader Beth Morris.  

"I was thinking about something I could do for Japan," Morris said. "At first I thought about food, but I didn't think it would make it, so then I thought money."

Why is it so special to Beth?  Her family has hosted two Japanese students at their Cullman home. She admits she was really scared at first.

"I was thinking oh my gosh...are they ok?" she said.

Her fear quickly turned into action, empowering the entire school to participate in "Smiles for Japan" a penny drop that students have really responded to. Teacher Kristin Nunn said she was shocked at the students' participation.  

"I went in the hall the first day and there were kids lined up with their pennies, rolled coins, checks, bills."

Beth said she's truly been surprised at how many people have donated.  

"My class, they all think it's a really good idea.  It's an awesome feeling, it just starts with one small voice then it spreads."

"It teaches we're all part of something else, and frankly children helping children is a great lesson we can all learn," Wiggins said.

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