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Posted: March 29, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Charity starts at school

Montessori students give grants to local non-profit groups

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Setting the example: Five Monetssori of Covington middle school students gave $1,000 in grant money to The Future Farmers of America Summer Wildlife Camp and Prevent Child Abuse Newton on Friday. From left to right: Montessori teacher Sara Vinson;...

Montessori School of Covington middle school students gave $1,000 in grant money to two Newton County non-profits on Friday afternoon. Five students presented $600 to the Future Farmers of America’s summer Wildlife Camp and $400 to Prevent Child Abuse Newton.

The two grants were part of a new program designed by Montessori teacher Sara Vinson. Vinson, who is also a board member of The Newton Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, wanted her students to learn about non-profit organizations and grant making.

"It was a wonderful experience," Vinson said. "They were learning about non-profits and seeing the variety of organizations in Newton County."

The students raised $500 at their annual Scholastic Book Fair and Newton Fund director Tamara Richardson agreed to match the money raised by the students. FFA will use the money to pay for two children to attend its summer camp and Prevent Child Abuse Newton will use its $400 to pay for supplies for children’s activities that are part of a 12-week family nurturing course.

The program started in January when Richardson introduced the students to the 125 non-profit organizations in the county. The students initially pared the list down to 25 organizations and after more discussion chose their final four: the FFA, Prevent Child Abuse Newton, the Georgia Wildlife Federation and Newton County Senior Services. The five students then visited each of the organizations and interviewed representatives.

"They asked exactly what we did and had specific questions about child abuse," said Sheena Berry, Prevent Child Abuse Newton Executive Director.

After completing the interviews and discussing the organizations the students chose the two organizations that most directly influence children.

"With Prevent Child Abuse Newton, abuse is not in their personal realm of experience," Vinson said. "So to learn about that made an impact. They learned that abuse isn’t just physical, but it can be verbal and mental and include neglect. With FFA they saw some of the personal applications and stories from families. That meant a lot to them."

Although Montessori students already participate in service projects, student Stafford Ross said the program opened his eyes to all of the different ways he could serve in his community.

"I learned how many organizations there are, even just within 5 minutes of here," he said. "I’m hoping to work with one of these organizations in the future."

Vinson and Richardson were pleased with the program and both said they hope to make it an annual event.

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