TCOE homepage TCOE homepage

Cottonwood Creek students strive to make positive changes in the world

Cottonwood Creek's MAD Chicks

Inspired by the award-winning book The View from Saturday (which chronicles the building of a sixth-grade academic team), five Cottonwood Creek Elementary School girls have taken steps to change the world one project at a time. This fall, the team initiated a fundraising competition among the school's sixth-grade classes that raised $481 for the Red Cross earthquake victims' relief in Turkey.

Their caring actions were brought to the attention of Tulare County CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Kelley Petty when their teacher, Catherine Smith, nominated the girls for recognition in the Visalia Times-Delta's daily Kids of Character feature.

"It's impressive how the girls organized the project and got each of the sixth grade classes involved," said Mrs. Petty. "The girls practiced good citizenship through their caring efforts. They were trustworthy with money and responsible to ensure the campaign was run fairly. This project perfectly integrates everything that the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program stands for."

Isabella O'Keeffe, Annalise Hunnicutt, Ashlee Calhoun, Alexandra Perez and Nayara Soria-Vazquez are Cottonwood Creek's MAD (Make a Difference) Chicks. With Ms. Smith's guidance, the enthusiastic girls initiated a Penny Wars competition to raise the funds for Turkey's earthquake victims. The group's president, Alexandra Perez, explains that each class was given a jar to collect the pennies. Each penny represents one point. To subtract points from their efforts, neighboring classes could "bomb" the jar by depositing silver coins or dollar bills. For example, a quarter placed in a rival class' jar would subtract 25 points.

In the end, the MAD chicks helped to raise nearly $500 for the Red Cross and secured a victory for Ms. Smith's class.

Buoyed by their success with the Red Cross campaign, the MAD Chicks have organized themselves into a club with officers, other members and a new project. The girls have joined the Disney Channel's "Friends for Change" program and conceived a school-wide recycling program. They have developed a video, which they hope to present to classes and inspire students to participate in the recycling program this year. If their excitement for the Penny Wars campaign is any indication, there is no doubt that the MAD Chicks will be making a huge difference this spring in the way Cottonwood Creek students look at paper waste on campus and at home!

Teachers, if you would like to share your students' projects or character in action, contact Kelley Petty at (559) 740-4303, or e-mail her at