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Support for schools

Coconut Grove Elementary School grounds and 1911 building with columns.
Coconut Grove Elementary School grounds and 1911 building with columns.
© 2013 George Leposky

Coupons are a fact of life in modern American marketing, but all coupons offered by the makers of food and household consumable items aren’t for discounts on product purchases. In 1996, General Mills Inc. introduced Box Tops for Education coupon icons on its product packaging. Schools can redeem them for cash. Each coupon is worth 10 cents.

Bonus Page.
Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt

Today over 250 different products from General Mills and other participating manufacturers carry the Box Tops for Education icons. I first saw them on Nestlé’s Juicy Juice cans and Land O’Lakes butter cartons. Juicy Juice has since dropped the program, but Land O’Lakes butter remains involved. Participating products are listed on the Box Tops for Education Web site.

According to the Web site, 90,000 elementary and middle schools attended by children in kindergarten through eighth grade participate nationwide. The Web site lists all participating schools and how much money they have raised. Parent Teacher Association members and teachers involve students, using collection sheets with multiple holiday and educational motifs.

More important than ever

Box Tops for Education and similar programs are more important than ever today as America’s education system confronts economic and political challenges that limit its funding. PTA and other education support organizations now must raise funds for arts education and other curriculum enhancements, as well as for everyday supplies. Bake sales continue but don’t raise all the money needed.

Last fall, Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt published a special Box Tops for Education 11th edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook with 1,500 recipes and 1,100 color photographs. The book includes a 32-page section in which each recipe uses at least one Box Tops for Education product. The book comes with ten free box tops.

A successful local program

Here’s how the program works in Coconut Grove, the Miami neighborhood in which I live. The Grove has public elementary schools with students drawn primarily from their immediate vicinity, and private schools that attract students from all over Greater Miami.

Coconut Grove Elementary School, founded in 1887, is the oldest public elementary school in continuous operation in Miami-Dade County. Its original one-room schoolhouse now stands on the grounds of Plymouth Congregational Church.

The oldest part of the current structure, built in 1911, is at 3351 Matilda St. near the intersection of Main Highway and Grand Avenue in the heart of Coconut Grove. It is surrounded by a small mall, restaurants, bars, and a variety of local and franchise stores. The school has 430 students.

“The Coconut Grove Elementary School PTA provides regular coupon pick-up times,” says Melodee Rodriguez, president. “We have partnered for several years with the Woman’s Club of Coconut Grove. Members of the Woman’s Club founded our school and were the first teachers.”

To deliver coupons to school, call the school office at 305-445-7876 and leave a message for Rodriguez.

“Money collected goes directly into the school’s general account,” she says. “The school board can’t touch this money. They have no access to the bank account.

“Because of our location, we have a source of funds not available to other Coconut Grove schools. With volunteer help, we park cars on the school’s field during the Coconut Grove Arts Festival (Presidents’ Day weekend in February), Hallowe’en in October, the King Mango Strut in December, and other special events.”

A decade or so ago, a special fund-raising effort amassed the money to acquire a copy of the Jane De Decker sculpture that stands in front of the school.

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