During every walk between classes and each hop-skip in the gym, Preston Hollow Elementary School students are thinking of other kids halfway across the world.
Mayor Mike Rawlings has taken notice of the Dallas ISD campus’ globally-inspired efforts and presented the school with an award at a recent UNICEF gala, recognizing the school as a UNICEF Champion.
The U.S. fund for UNICEF supports the organization’s mission of “saving lives, building futures” through fundraising, advocacy, and education.
Equipped with Kid Power Bands (like Fitbits made for children) and a corresponding smartphone app, Preston Hollow Elementary students are fundraising by tracking their steps and jumping jacks.
The points they earn for their activities get translated to money that buys ready-to-eat therapeutic food packets for malnourished children across the world. To date, more than 200,000 Kid Power Band wearers across the country have unlocked close to 5.3 million food packets, according to UNICEF.
“There’s nothing more powerful than the message of ‘kids helping kids,’” said Mike Heaton, director for the U.S. fund for UNICEF’s Great Plains Region. “It gives them the feeling that they’re really making a difference.”
Nearly 3,000 Dallas-area students are on board with the initiative, which launched in the region three years ago.
Preston Hollow Elementary fourth-graders raised around $4,000 in a month with their Kid Power bands, making them the top fundraisers in the school district and providing food packets to save 25 young lives, according to Heaton, who called the feat “pretty darn impressive.”
Many beneficiaries likely live in South Sudan, where a famine was declared in some areas just last month. Following an intense civil war and a collapsing economy, more than 100,000 people face starvation in the eastern African nation, per a report by The Guardian.
“[Preston Hollow Elementary students are] just an incredible supporter of UNICEF’s mission, which involves always having that global-citizenship mentality,” Heaton said.
Preston Hollow Elementary is an International Baccalaureate candidate school for the Primary Years Programme, which puts an emphasis on developing “active, caring, lifelong learners … who have the capacity to participate in the world around them,” the school’s website explains.
Case in point: UNICEF primarily works with schools with 65 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, yet those students are fitness-tracking for young peers elsewhere on the verge of starvation.
Students are also raising money for an educational trip to the Dominican Republic in coming months.
Heaton says students recognize the impact of what they are doing. A mother described to UNICEF officials how one night she heard a ruckus coming from her daughter’s room. The young girl, usually quite inactive, she said, was doing jumping jacks on her bed.
When she pressed her daughter to explain, the girl replied, “Mom, I’m saving lives.”
“Those are the stories we hear all the time,” Heaton said. “They understand very well what they’re doing.”