We all had that favorite teacher in high school: someone who inspired us or encouraged us to succeed, and maybe gave back to the world through their students. But how many of us can claim that our high school teacher simultaneously made class interesting and taught students the value of charity work by helping them actually raise tens of thousands of dollars to help low-income families in our community? San Marcos High School Economics teacher Jamie DeVries may be accomplishing just that in the “Kids Helping Kids” program that he heads up with his three senior AP Economics classes.
In this project, students, under the supervision of DeVries, learn economics through the real-life experience of raising money for local Santa Barbara charity Unity Shoppe. Their fundraising plans this year will culminate in a charity dinner, raffle, and auction on December 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree. DeVries explained that all preparation and marketing for the event is managed and executed by the students, according to DeVries, who himself plays an auxiliary role, providing motivation and planning ideas to the students.
The students, now in their fourth week of fundraising, are becoming aware of just how much work planning a charity dinner and raising $100,000 can be. “Everybody just kind of stops and says ‘Wow, this is hard,'” recounts 17-year-old Kids Helping Kids “CEO” Bryn Kass. The classes have organized themselves into small workgroups, which will venture out individually in the following weeks, soliciting donations from local businesses and selling tickets for December’s event.
“I was looking for a way to make economics come alive for the students,” explained DeVries. This may seem like a difficult task to accomplish for economics, of all subjects, especially when teaching it to high school students. According to Kass, “[Economics] is a mandatory class at San Marcos and I was more interested in my electives.” Through her experience with the Kids Helping Kids program, though, Kass has already revised her opinion of the subject. “It’s so easy to apply [economics] to real life: I definitely found a new interest.”
With all the event-planning and fun-having going on, it seems the rigid AP economics curriculum could too easily be forgotten. DeVries, however, reported quite a different outcome. The project covers the key aspects of the AP Economics curriculum, including “marketing, fixed cost, variable cost, non-profit and for-profit businesses, tax ID numbers, accounts receivable, and accounts payable.” The course was proven highly effective based on the AP Economics test, which 90 percent of DeVries’ students generally pass, according to the teacher himself.
DeVries first started his unique approach of teaching-through-charity work in partnership with the Unity Shoppe four years ago, when his three classes managed to raise around $12,000 collectively. The following years they increased that amount to $20,000, and then to $22,000, before widening the scope and ambition of their project tremendously last year by renting out a 12,000-square foot ballroom for a charity dinner. That endeavor brought the students enough money to cover the $30,000 in business expenses with a net gain of $58,000. Now, as the fifth year of this project is just getting underway, this year’s students have set themselves the goal of raising $100,000. When asked about their ambitious goal, Kass said that “I have a lot of faith in my class: I definitely think it will happen. We will need the community’s help though, that’s for sure.”