To advance social justice and equal opportunity by emboldening a generation of young people to become community activists and good citizens during their youth.
About the Organization:
Common Cents New York was founded by journalist and author Teddy Gross to promote the Penny Harvest, the first of what would become an annual campaign of students collecting pennies to help feed and clothe homeless people in New York City. In partnership with the New York City Department of Education, Common Cents has integrated Penny Harvest into more than seven hundred public schools, growing it into a year-long program of community action, engaging students in resource mobilization, youth philanthropy, civic engagement, and peer mentoring. In 2004-2005, the program mobilized close to a half-million students in 720 schools and raised nearly $627,255 — all in pennies; since its inception students have collected more than $4.5 million and donated it to hundreds of community-based organizations for student-led service projects. Common Cents is expanding the program nationwide.
The Penny Harvest Program engages pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students in collecting pennies, transforming them into dollars, and then allocating their money and time to improve their communities. Student leaders plan school-wide competitions and events, and teachers integrate program activities into curricula, incorporating Penny Harvest materials into lessons in civics, math, literacy, science, and art. Common Cents also sponsors two annual city-wide art and essay contests to encourage participants to share their experiences; winning entries are posted online.
The Common Cents Web site provides tools for each phase of the Penny Harvest Program, including a handbook; examples of successful initiatives; and 2004-2005 grant reports (100 pages, PDF) that specify the programs in which students invested their money. The site also includes program accomplishments, a gallery of student artwork, a guide (10 pages, PDF) to service learning, and ways to get involved.
Common Cents New York is supported primarily by foundation grants.