open hands holding a beaded bracelet that says, "love"

Five students at Jack Elementary School are combining their entrepreneurial skills with their big hearts to help their classmates.

About a month ago, fourth graders Merus Redwing and Zoe Zolkoski noticed some of their classmates didn’t always bring money for school fundraiser events like Kona Ice Day or Pizza by the Slice Day. Then they noticed one of their classmates, Angie Ruiz, didn’t check out a library book and that got them thinking. 

“Angie loves to read and is always reading, but she couldn’t get a new book because she had lost a library book and needed to either find it or replace it,” Zoe said. “We wanted to help Angie pay for her lost book so she could get another one to read. We also wanted to help others in our class.”

After brainstorming ideas to raise money, Merus, Zoe, and Angie put their leadership skills to work and decided to sell handmade jewelry and other crafts. Two more classmates, Sarah Smith and McKenzie Bowling, quickly joined in, and the new venture of “A to Z Crafts” began.   

“We call our business A-Z Crafts because we care about Angie to Zoe and everybody in between,” Zoe said with a smile.  

Using colorful beads, charms, threads, and yarn, the girls create bracelets, necklaces, and keychains. Many of their creations also include encouraging words like “Sparkle,” “Love,” and “Be Happy.” To drum up business, the girls spent the first day giving away their creations. Then, they began selling them for $.25 to $1.00 each.

“The price depends on the amount of detail of the design,” Merus said. “We have raised $57 so far, and we hope to do it for the rest of the year and even over the summer for next school year.”

The girls’ teacher, Kelly Bogenshutz, said she believes that at least half her class has benefitted from the girls’ business, and it’s had a positive impact in the classroom. “I think it’s such a selfless and thoughtful act that these girls are doing,” Bogenschutz said. “Their business started with wanting to help one friend, and it turned into them helping others in our class as well. If a friend is unable to pay for certain things or activities, the girls are ready to help. It’s nice seeing them give as much as they do.”

Principal Brett Shelby says although he is proud of the girls for wanting to help their classmates, he is even more impressed with how they have used their leadership skills to make the business a success.

Along with all Tyler ISD elementary campuses, the school incorporates the national “Leader in Me” character and leadership development program into its daily culture. Leader in Me models Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and teaches students to Be Proactive, Begin with the End in Mind, Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand, then to Be Understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw.

“My favorite part about using our Leader in Me skills for our business is the Win-Win step,” Sarah said. “We are having fun making these crafts, and we are also making other people happy.”

For more information or to cover the story, please contact Jennifer Hines at 903-262-1064.