Journalism Next from The Out-of-Door Academy: ODA students put in their two cents

Special to the HeraldJanuary 7, 2013 

Pennies have always been a symbol of luck in our society. Whether it is tossing pennies into a fountain and making a wish, or finding a penny dropped by a stranger, these simple acts have always brought on a momentary sense of hope and good fortune.

Here at the Out-of-Door Academy, English teacher Andy Lemieux has turned the simplicity of a penny into a school project that has made a great impact on many of his students.

The project is simple: Each week his students are to individually execute one random act of kindness. The scope of these acts has a wide spectrum each week; they can be small or big, humorous or serious, impact someone they know or a total stranger.

Each week, a class discussion takes place for the students to share their acts of kindness with their peers. Everyone manages to bring something different and unique to the discussion each time. Lemieux remarks that it is a great way to see how each of his students utilize their creativity.

"It's very interesting to hear the different ways the kids help other people," says

Lemieux.

The Found Pennies Project, as it has been named, originally came to Mr. Lemieux as an inspiration from Annie Dillard's essay, "Seeing." In her piece, Dillard writes about being a young child growing up in Pittsburgh and her memories of leaving pennies around in strategic locations for others to find. In the 2011-12 school year, Mr. Lemieux read Dillard's piece with his class, as well as other essays that contemplated the inherit good and evil of mankind. These readings lead Lemieux to create a project that would further advance notions of kindness.

"I thought it would be a good way to make the world a better place but also give them a way to concretely celebrate Dillard's piece."

Lemieux's students have responded to this project with enthusiasm, and look forward each week to sharing their acts of kindness with their fellow classmates. Junior Jenna Landis remarks, "It's a fun way to share the nice, little things people do." Another junior, Ellie Kimmell, says, "I think it's awesome that we are trying to be aware of the good we do each week."

As a participant in this project myself, I could not agree more. It's a great way to learn more about the people in my class by hearing about the nice things they do for others.

Lemieux comments that he loves the way the "pennies" can be funny, inspirational and reaffirming. One particular act of kindness that he remembers is by senior Kevin Moody, who last year seemed to focus on saving animals for weeks in a row. In different ways, all share the same message through their pennies: it takes very little effort to make someone's day better.

"Last night I called my grandma, who I rarely ever see anymore, and who I used to live two floors above, and talked to her for an hour. She almost started to cry at the end of the conversation because she was so happy I called," says Nikki LaSalla.

"While driving to Panera, my father and I saw a car broken down in the middle of the highway. We got out of the car and helped the man push it to the sidewalk," says Lauren Stewart.

The "pennies" project makes each week more fun, as well making us realize that taking a small amount of time out of one's day can have a great impact on someone else. Though this project has influenced the students already, Lemieux is far from done. He is just now beginning to create a blog that shares his story and inspiration for the Found Pennies Project, as well as each week's acts of kindness.

This project has taught the Out-of-Door students not only to realize the good we do each week for people, but also to inspire us to do good deeds within out community. Taking time out of one's day to do something for another might not always be easy, but it can make a significant impact on that person and truly make their day brighter.

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