MESQUITE, Texas — Just before school let out for summer, Florence Black Elementary in Mesquite ISD came together one final time to celebrate, because together they had done something special. 

The assembly wasn’t about test scores or report cards. It was a recognition of generosity and kindness. It was a celebration of character.

“You guys did an awesome job!” school counselor Dannah Rogers told the students gathered in the gym, reminding them of the donations they collected for two weeks during the spring semester. 

Florence Black chose the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients program as their annual service project. 

Rogers, knowing the demographics on her campus – 564 of 696 students qualify for free or reduced lunches – hoped to raise $750. 

Her students far surpassed the goal. “Are you ready to see your total?” she asked. 

The students squealed.

“You raised $5,340!” Rogers said, and the squeals turned to cheers and amazement.

Then she told the students about the record they broke.

Of all the schools in Mesquite ISD, low income Florence Black Elementary School raised more money than any Mesquite school has ever raised. 

“That’s something to be proud of,” Rogers told the students. “I’m so proud of you.”

One kindergarten class raised $500 alone. 

Sophia Mendoza and Cameron Allen are in that class – and they know more about cancer than any kindergartener should have to know. 

Cameron’s mother beat cancer. Sophia’s mother fought hard. But earlier this year, she passed away. 

“She was really sick, and they couldn’t help her and she died,” Sophia, now 6 years old, said. “I told everyone who is big and who has money to give me a dollar or pennies or quarters or nickels or dimes.”

Students collected coins and some of them gave up their own savings.

“One student - he told me he brought his entire life savings,” Rogers said, “and I said, ‘You did? How much was that?’ And he goes ‘$4.32!’”

Jesse Noegel, a fourth grader, brought in money he’d been saving up, too.  “I realized helping people with cancer was way more important than just buying a game,” he said.

Rogers said the school uses the service project to teach empathy, kindness, grit and perseverance. 

“I want them to learn that you do things for others, not to get something in return,” she said. “That’s what life is about. You give what you can give. And if you need help, you ask.” 

It seems Florence Black Elementary has learned that important life lesson.

“You never know what people are going through, and it may be worse than you think,” said third-grader Sophia Reyes. “Knowing you helped another child in need is huge.”

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