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Ligonier elementary students raise $6,800 with Math-a-thon

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 1:14 p.m.

A recent fundraiser at R.K. Mellon Elementary School resulted in positive dividends for both the PTA and students.

The school raised approximately $6,800 through its first Math-a-Thon, a fundraiser that challenged students in kindergarten through fifth grade to complete math problems in exchange for monetary pledges, setting a new record for the R.K. Mellon PTA and giving students the opportunity to brush up on their skills.

“It was a wonderful success, and we actually have heard that some of the kids wished they would have done it,” said Chrystal Walsh, a PTA volunteer and Math-a-Thon organizer.

The concept was suggested by Principal Ed Moran, who heard of similar fundraisers at other districts.

“I had no idea it would be this successful,” Moran said. “We had kids and families doing math problems - that's the cool part.”

Teachers developed sets of 30 questions for each grade level, Walsh explained. Students who chose to participate asked friends, family and neighbors for pledges on either a per-correct-question rate or a flat rate. Students had about two weeks to ask for pledges around Fort Ligonier Days, Walsh said.

“Once they turned in their pledge form, we gave everyone their questions, and the PTA and teachers did the corrections,” she said. “We gave them their questions back, and they collected pledges based on how well they did on the math questions.”

Of the 400 students at the school, 150 participated, Walsh said. Almost 90 percent of participants got between 27 and 30 questions correct, she said.

“Our top grade was second grade, which collected $1,700 and had 33 kids participating,” Walsh said.

The Math-a-Thon deviated from the typical, purchase-based fundraisers, according to R.K. Mellon PTA vice president and fundraising chair Kim Dickert-Wallace.

“People didn't have to feel the pressure to purchase anything,” she said. “They were refreshed that this wasn't something that they had to sell for.”

Last week, the PTA awarded its participants for their hard work. Students who raised $10 received a commemorative frisbee, while students who raised $50 received $10 to spend at the “Mellon Patch” school store. Students who reached $100 received a commemorative T-shirt. PTA volunteer and parent Kristi Springer donated her graphic design talents for the frisbees and T-shirts, Walsh said.

“(The students) certainly liked their prizes,” Walsh said. “That always helps. I think they were all really proud of their work, and it was a November-December time frame, so I think this boosted their confidence early in the school year, and I imagine teachers got a little glimpse of how students were doing after the summer.”

Zach Zornan, 8, was the top fundraiser for the Math-a-Thon this year. The second grade student from Mrs. Abbey Baronie's class collected $251 from family and friends after completing 15 addition and 15 subtraction problems correctly.

“I really like math, so it was really fun to do,” he said.

Zorn else should, too,” he said.

The total annual budget for the PTA is $15,000, Walsh said. The results of the “Math-a-Thon” had a much bigger impact than the numerous small fundraisers the PTA typically does, Walsh said.

R.K. Mellon PTA plans to hold another Math-a-Thon next year, Walsh said, adding that the Laurel Valley PTA has also decided to try it as a spring fundraiser for their school.

She hopes the fundraiser will continue to grow in terms of the number of students participating and community support.

“It's an excellent way to boost kids' academic skills,” she said, “while at the same time getting community support from family and friends.”