Pennies for Pets

Local fourth-grader works to help homeless animals

Telegraph photo by GRACE PECCI Amherst Street Elementary School student Mia Cardona, 10, stands next to the ongoing wall of hearts in her school. Cardona has always been passionate about animals, and recently decided to chase her passion. She has now brought the Humane Society of Greater Nashua’s Have a Heart Campaign to her school, where students can buy a paper heart to show their support of homeless pets.

NASHUA – For many young students, writing a five-paragraph essay can be a daunting task.

In fourth-grade teacher Brittany Mahany’s class at Amherst Street Elementary School, this task is a requirement. Mahany said her class uses the Lucy Calkins Units of Study for writing and a unit they were studying consisted of opinion writing. The students in her class had to write a persuasive five-paragraph essay that generated a thesis and three reasons supporting it.

For some students, this was just another unit in class, but for Mia Cardona, it became a call to action. Cardona, who has always been passionate about helping animals, chose to do her essay on hosting a penny war to benefit the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.

In her essay, she proposed to have a penny war, an event during which students collect coins of all sorts. Cardona proposed that each grade would be a team, the staff would be a team and they would host the penny war from March until June. At the end of June, they would count up the money and donate to the Humane Society of Greater Nashua. The team with the most money collected would win a doughnut party.

In her essay, Cardona wrote, “We win by having a doughnut party and they win by having money to help provide food, vaccines, medical care, and shelter for their pets.”

Later, she added, “It’s not only a reward for the pets, but a reward for us too. At the end, we give them all the money to the shelter, and the winning team or grade gets a doughnut party! Who doesn’t like a doughnut buffet?! Plus, we are being kind citizens in our community.”

Mahany, who was impressed with Cardona’s idea, told Cardona that if she was interested, she could actually follow through with it.

“So what she did was, she went to the Humane Society on her own time and she spoke to someone there. They gave her the materials she would need,” Mahany said.

What Cardona received were red and gold paper hearts, which come from the Humane Society’s “Have a Heart Campaign.” The hearts are sold and then hanged on a wall. The red heart costs $1 and the gold heart is $10. All proceeds benefit the animals at the Humane Society.

Mahany said Cardona has already almost run out of the hearts and will be going back to the Humane Society soon. While she was at the Humane Society, Cardona also spent time reading to the animals in the shelter.

“First, we went to see the bunnies and read to them; then the cats, and then the dogs and the dogs were awesome,” Cardona said. Cardona joked she hopes to persuade her dad to get a dog from the Humane Society, even though they already have another dog at home.

Cardona said she has always loved animals and that one of her dreams is to help them. She added that animals have “really nice hearts.”

In the meantime, Cardona has been working with her fellow students to raise money both in and out of school. Cardona said she is not sure yet how much they have raised in the school. However, in the community, they have raised $110, along with another $130 online.

To get this going, Mahany said Cardona brought her idea to the school’s Student Lighthouse Committee, which serves a similar purpose as a student council. She created her own sub-committee, through which she delegated jobs to other students, and set up an announcement schedule to get students excited and invested. Once the students return from February vacation, Cardona will work with Mahany and the school to set up the penny war, which will last for the remainder of the school year.

This initiative was something Mahany called a selfless act of leadership in the community.

“It’s a huge piece of pulling the community in, and shows stellar leadership qualities that I have not seen in a fourth-grader in a long time,” Mahany said. “(Cardona) is a great kid all around.”