Zander Maurin could have bought a pool.

That’s what the bright-eyed first-grader told his teacher, Tammi Byers, as he lugged a $1,141 donation for One Dime at a Time into Jefferson-Morgan Elementary School.

“When I saw him walk in with the amount, I was so surprised and so thrilled. I said, ‘Zander, I can’t believe you did this.’ He said, ‘Yeah, you know, I could have bought a pool with this,” laughed Byers, who teaches K-1. “I said, ‘Yes, but doesn’t it feel great what you’re doing, how many families you’re helping?’ And he was just so proud.”

Proud, too, is Zander’s mother, Ashley, who assisted the youngster’s fundraising efforts for One Dime at a Time, a campaign spearheaded by junior Kaileigh Coneybeer and her marketing internship classmate Wyatt Wilson.

Ashley and Zander crafted donation boxes for the first-grader’s father and two grandmothers – both beauticians – to collect dimes in at work. Word of Maurin’s fundraising efforts spread, and a family member returned from an out-of-town trip with dimes in lieu of souvenirs.

“Everybody loves Zander. Zander’s a special little boy in our family. Everybody was very helpful,” said Ashley Maurin, noting it was Zander who placed telephone calls and approached folks for donations.

“He did tell people about it,” she said. “He helped me count everything, and he helped me organize and when we got a total, I was speechless.”

Out of all the participants, Zander singlehandedly raised the most money for One Dime at a Time, earning him the title, “Duke of Dimes.” His efforts, combined with that of his classmates, earned Byers’ students a pizza party.

“There wasn’t a title called ‘King of Cash,’” said Jodi Fulks, who teaches the marketing internship course. “We kind of made that because he was such a good collector.”

The students at Jefferson-Morgan are, together, good collectors: Through her initiative, Coneybeer was able to donate roughly $7,000 to the Corner Cupboard Food Bank, to put toward the purchase of a refrigerated truck.

“It’s the first time we’ve ever done something like this. We thought ... we’ll be happy with $1,000. It definitely exceeded our expectations,” said Fulks. “We’re hoping to promote Pathways and internships because that’s a wonderful experience for high school students.”

This school year marks the first time Jefferson-Morgan has offered a marketing internship course through Pathways, a program that allows students to explore career options and gain real-world experience before stepping on a college campus or into the work world.

“The push now is not necessarily college. It’s the careers, too,” said principal Wes Loring. “We still want to put that focus on college readiness, but at the same time, career readiness. We always say, bringing the big-school opportunities to the small school students. I want to be able to provide them with as many experiences as they can get and to try to help them be a step up on others kids when they leave school.”

One Dime at a Time afforded Coneybeer the opportunity to hone her presentation skills – she kicked off the campaign with an elementary school assembly and visited every classroom, sparking excitement for the fundraiser by passing out lollipops and water bottles (“We got some bottles back with water and dimes in it,” Byers said).

She also sharpened her marketing skills and made connections within the community by soliciting donations from local businesses. Local businesses, Coneybeer said, accounted for nearly $2,000 in donations to the local food bank.

“I kind of went into it not expecting to raise much, just gaining experience, but it turned out to be a lot better than that,” said Coneybeer, who serves on student council. “I definitely didn’t expect it to take off this big.”

And that success, which can be attributed to Coneybeer’s organizational and leadership abilities, wouldn’t shine as brightly as a newly minted dime without Maurin’s savvy fundraising skills.

The King of Cash wears his title – and plush, royal purple crown – proudly. His magnificent monetary donation to One Dime at a Time is in character, said Byers, noting Zander is a kind, thoughtful and hardworking student who is always ready to assist his peers.

Ashley Maurin is so proud of her King of Cash she rewarded his efforts with that swimming pool his heart was set on. While Zander makes a different kind of splash this summer, Loring is still swimming with pride for his students.

“We’re definitely proud of ... all their efforts, the time and the hard work by the King of Cash himself and the other students,” Loring said. “Jefferson-Morgan, we may be small, but you know, when it comes to coming together to support causes like this one, I wouldn’t pick a better school district.”

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