Newton school students declare ‘war’ to help fellow students

The sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at St. Mary Catholic School in Newton declared war on each other last month – to benefit their brothers and sisters in Catholic schools.
Middle school students declared a penny war as a way to increase their giving to the Walk in Sister’s Shoes event that supports the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund. The fund assists parishes that struggle financially to carry out the mission of Catholic education in a parish school.
According to Cathy Guyer, president of the St. Mary Catholic School PTO, students understand the importance of supporting the Drexel fund because over 60 percent of the students benefit from free or reduced-price meals services.
“The results surprised everyone,” Guyer said, adding that the classes collectively raised $1,778.11, a 47 percent increase over 2016.
The penny war concept was initiated by St. Mary PTO who wanted to help the middle schoolers become more passionate about the Walk in Sister’s Shoes program. “The middle schooler’s interest was beyond lining the halls with decorated paper shoes, so we provided them with something more age ­appropriate,” said PTO president Cathy Guyer.
A penny war awards points for pennies and bills and deducts points for silver coins.
“Since these students rotate through each other’s classrooms all day, they could happily deposit silver coins in their competitor’s boxes,” said teacher Marcia Oden. “It was fun to watch.”
After the four week competition, the sixth grade class won a pizza party on the playground, with the last place eighth graders serving and cleaning ­up.
“For a month, students asked me at lunch for any spare change so they could add it to the competition!” said Principal Philip Stutey. “Not only did they enjoy the competition, they enjoyed what the end of the competition brought; knowing they were helping others, learning the importance of the Drexel fund to our school and having fun along the way.”
St. Mary Catholic School consists of one class per grade from pre-­K through eighth grade and currently has 201 students enrolled.
The school primarily serves the families of Harvey County and Catholic churches St. Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe in Newton and Sacred Heart in Halstead.