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Washington Elementary third graders collect tabs for Ronald McDonald House

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One of six third grade classrooms at Sunnyside's Washington Elementary School collecting tabs from soda cans, the students in Jennifer Norman's (back far right) class know their efforts benefit children like Emilio Bueno (third row far right). The students pictured are (front L-R) Malea Esqueda, Alondra Garcia, Chastitee Garza and Edith Rangel; (second row L-R) Jasmine Brahms, Samantha Newberry, Yajaira Gonzalez, Marlen Valle and Joanna Morales; (third row L-R) Israel Gonzales, Jason Pina and Isaiah Garcia; (back row L-R) Alex Mendez, Moses Ayala, Anthony Wood and Jose Ortiz.

Last October third grade teachers at Sunnyside's Washington Elementary School were brainstorming ideas to help their students recognize the number 10,000. The idea to collect tabs from soda cans was suggested.

"The state math standard is for third grade students to recognize 10,000," explained third grade teacher Jennifer Norman.

The teacher set a goal of collecting the tabs and Norman set about researching ways in which the collection could be utilized. She found a website that suggested one-pound of tabs is the equivalent of 40 cents.

It was also discovered the tabs could be donated to Make A Wish Foundation, which works in conjunction with the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle.

Having a student, Emilio Bueno, whose family benefits from services provided at the Ronald McDonald House, the teachers felt that would be the best use of the collection.

Bueno is in Norman's classroom and was diagnosed with Leukemia before he began kindergarten. The youngster's disease went into remission, but last April the cancer returned and he is now battling the disease once again.

"On a monthly basis, Emilio must go to Seattle's Children's Hospital for check-ups. In the meantime, he is undergoing bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments," shared Norman.

Those treatments, Bueno's mother verified, are received in Toppenish.

"But, he misses two days of class when he gets his treatments because he is usually sick the day after," Norman said.

Because of Bueno's ordeal, the staff at Washington Elementary coordinated efforts to help his classmates support the youngster.

The tab collection will help the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle provide shelter for families like Bueno's while their children are undergoing treatment at Children's Hospital.

"The collection is an invaluable lesson in math and provides students with a variety of skills, but the project also serves as a social studies lesson," said Norman.

The third graders, knowing the tabs would benefit families like Bueno's more than met the challenge, eclipsing the 10,000 goal by nearly six times.

"About half of the tabs were donated by Jan Price," Norman shared, stating Price is a food services employee at the school.

"But, the students are so excited...the tabs are posted in the hallways...they are still collecting and probably will through the rest of the school year," she said, stating the deadline was earlier this week and tabs continue to pour in.

When asked how the students felt about their work, Norman said the students in her classroom can better relate to the benefits of their efforts because of Bueno's presence. "He makes it real to them," she explained.

The response, Norman said, has been overwhelming for both students and staff. "We were shocked at how many tabs have been collected and donated."

When asked about how they felt, Jason Pina, Joanna Morales, Edith Rangel, Jasmine Brahms, Malea Esqueda and Samantha Newberry all shared they are happy they are able to help others through their efforts.

"We are helping other people and I thought our class would get 1,000 (tabs), but we went over," said Morales.

Newberry shared, "I am glad we can help a classmate."

Bueno, too, shared his thoughts, stating, "I still have friends at the Ronald McDonald House and they will be helped."

Because the effort is ongoing, surpassing the expectations of the third grade teachers, Norman said community members can help out, too. They can bring tabs to the office at Washington Elementary School and, even if the tabs do not get donated this school year, they will be donated as part of the next class project.

"This worked out well and whatever doesn't make it in this year's collection can be carried over as next year's class learns to recognize 10,000. We think the success of the project is something we would like to invite all the schools in the Sunnyside School District to take part in next year, as well," she said.

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