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Students helping where it counts for fund-raiser

CSUB professor expands 'Homeless Quarters' with Fairview Elementary

By DAVID BURGER Califomian staff writer

Pickle jars are hard to open.  But now that Russell Travis' fore­arms have opened more than a few of them, students at Fairview Elementary School are working on filling them up with coins — minus the pickle juice. More than 70 Mason, pickle and jelly jars have been distributed to the school in Greenfield, labeled with two slogans: "Helping Others Out of a Pickle" and "Helping Others Out of a Jam." The 26 fourth and fifth graders enrolled in Fairview's after-school program kicked off Travis' idea of children helping the homeless, one dime at a time, on Monday.

But some students couldn't wait for the official launch, Travis, a sociology professor at Cal State Bakersfield, said.

"I was told on Thursday by the site coordinator, Rosa Corona, that students had begun to raise money in shoe boxes, even before the official kickoff," Travis said Monday as he watched the students. "That tells me that there has been an excitement generated at Greenfield... They are indeed a hardworking group with refreshingly high hopes for the future."

Donating pennies found in washing machines, behind the sofa cushions and in First Communion outfits is part of an overall goal designed to integrate homeless-awareness into the curriculum.

The school-based idea is an off­shoot of a program Travis started in 2002, called Homeless Quarters, that has distributed house shaped collection jars at businesses all over Kern County.

Schools all over Kern is where Travis hopes his idea will spread. But long-range projects take baby — or, rather, fifth-grader—steps to take off, and the after-school program at Fairview was Travis' "test site," he said.

After-school instructors Ricardo Morales, Sonia Conception and Corona introduced the topic to the 26 children Monday, and the students got to work enthusiastically, designing blue posters to let the rest of the school know about the sudden prevalence of pickle jars.

Allen Ibarra, 11, used purple markers to draw some hearts on one poster. Angel Franco, 10, sketched orange dollar bills on the same poster. Another student was inspired and tried to delineate the words "To Help the Homeless" in block letters until the orange marker ran out of ink.

Every classroom in the school will participate, and the classroom to bring in the most money will win an ice cream party, Corona said.

Vanessa Cervantes, 11, who likes strawberry-and-rocky-road ice cream cones except when they melt and "get all sticky" in her hands, said it wasn't food that motivated her to contribute her artistic skills to the cause.

Cervantes said she once saw a homeless woman sitting alone outside a market, and dutifully followed her family's instructions that "it's not polite to stare at homeless people," she said

"If we raise enough money, then all the people will be able to live in houses," she added

Russell Travis is hoping to expand his cause to every Kern County elementary and middle school In the county. To participate, schools should call Travis at 654-3159.

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