Like many schools throughout the nation, the students and staff at New Mountain Hill Elementary School in Harris County wanted to react in a positive way to December's massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
But the students in Alison Hurst's fourth-grade class took their efforts beyond the condolence letters and fundraisers. They designed a T-shirt to honor Sandy Hook.
Then they wrote persuasive essays to encourage folks to buy the shirts and used their math skills to track the sales.
Their goal was to sell 300 shirts, but they more than doubled that mark, with 674 sold. All of the proceeds will be donated to the Newtown Memorial Fund. The fund helps support:
The families of the 26 victims
The two teachers that were wounded but survived
The 12 students who escaped the two attacked classrooms
The first responders
Academic scholarships in the victims' names for future generations
A memorial in Newtown.
"It's nice to help people because they got hurt by someone rude and mean," said fourth-grader Haley Simmons, 9.
Tuesday, the project culminated at One12 Apparel on Veterans Parkway in Columbus, where the students saw their shirts printed and then sorted and packed them.
"It's really cool to watch the process and see what it's like to make shirts," said fourth-grader Jesse Donohue, 10.
Hurst's students sold the shirts for $12 each. The shirts cost $6.50 each to produce at One12 Apparel, which donated the labor and didn't make a profit, Hurst said. So the students raised more than $3,707 for the Newtown Memorial Fund.
Since the first day they returned from winter break in January, the students have devoted about 15 hours -- including their recess -- to the project.
"They gave up their free time for Sandy Hook time," Hurst said.
The shirt's front shows Harris County and Sandy Hook logos surrounding hands that meet to form the shape of a heart with the slogan, "TOGETHER WE BRING HOPE."
The shirt's back has "REMEMBER" atop the number 26.
Students in the school's other fourth-grade classes, taught by Dawn Caudill and Heather Tarver, also contributed to the effort. Art teacher Virginia McCullough oversaw the final design, and music teacher Melissa Hammonds taught the students a song about perseverance and helping others to go along with the project.
"It started out as something really small," Hurst said, "and it's just grown and grown as everybody had a part."
Hurst thanked the teachers, students, bookkeepers, administrators, community leaders and One12 Apparel for helping to complete the project.
"We love to work with any fundraisers to help them keep the costs down," said One12 Apparel owner Chris Patchin. "To see kids this age that want to give back to a community hundreds of miles away and to help them achieve their goal is pretty cool."