Cue Bugs Bunny Music: "Overture, curtains, lights. This is it, you'll hit the heights. And oh what heights we'll hit. On with the show this is it!"
Samantha Smith Elementary School children didn't just want to make a splash in their local talent show; they wanted to take it global. They didn't just want to showcase their talent; they wanted to change the world. Their ideas on how to make a positive difference were as diverse as the children were. Some of these students had lost siblings to cancer, some had moved to the USA from halfway around the world. They were of different religions and backgrounds, different abilities and interests. Some liked plain M&Ms, others liked peanut. So when it came to focus on what causes to support, these students democratically allowed their peers to make a case for their cause, and then they voted. They would help the National Wildlife Federation by helping restore a natural habitat in their community, they'd help kids with cancer by purchasing iPads for a local pediatric oncology unit and they'd help Japan post-tsunami.
Knowing who they wanted to help, they turned their attention on "how" to help. How could they raise money to support the causes they care about? They tossed around ideas: Have a carnival! We could get a bouncy house! Dunk the principal! Put on a race and get donors! Nothing really gelled until someone said, "Let's put on a talent show, that way everyone can do something that they're good at!" The room erupted with enthusiasm. That was it. And then an interesting nugget of wisdom surfaced. They didn't want students to be in the talent show just to show off. They wanted kids to be in the talent show because they cared about these causes, too.
So this core group of students set out to educate their entire school on the problems they've identified, and invited them to be a part of the solution. "If you want to be in the talent show, then you need to get sponsors," they said. Anyone can be in the show. But they need to commit to raising whatever amount of money they feel they can to secure their spot in the show, be it $5 or $100. Some kids reached out to family and friends. Some kids asked businesses to sponsor their act. And a number of kids showcased their acts on a talent show webpage.
The webpage was the gamechanger. This webpage unified all their efforts; educated people on who they are and why they're supporting the causes they chose; and they showed the world where they were in relation to their fundraising goal. What's more; relatives in Costa Rica and Vietnam could log on and see their grandchild's act, and support their cause. The world got a little smaller. And kids who aren't yet old enough to drive or vote were indeed, able to change the world.
Best of all, there were no auditions for the show. That's right. If students wanted to showcase their talent to change the world, then by golly, they were in. There were the usual singers and dancers, along with the fun Pogo Stick jumping family. But fans also enjoyed the unexpected. There was the third grade boy who proudly approached the stage with a big Lego Harry Potter Display. He plopped it on a table and began to answer interview questions.
Show Emcee: "How long have you been a Lego enthusiast?"
Third grader: "I've been doing them all my life, but I didn't get really serious until about the first grade."
There was the 5th grade girl who did horse impersonations.
"This is the sound of a happy foal who is just a few hours old."
She made very sweet sounds. And yes, I could totally picture a little foal, wobbly on his legs, bounding around.
Emcee: "Thank you for sharing you're amazing talent to change the world!"
Fifth grade horse impersonator neighed with great pride: "You're welcome."
The students made about $900 at the door on the night of the show. But with support from their fans and family from around the world using the RandomKid website, they more than doubled that, ultimately bringing in just over $2500. They purchased those iPads for kids with cancer, they invested in restoring natural habitats right in their community, and they gave money earmarked for Japan in the aftermath of the Tsunami. And they were inducted into the RandomKid Random RockStar Hall of Fame -- for reaching out to help others.
Anne Royse Ginther runs a Catholic youth program for middle schoolers in Seattle Washington, and is one of the founders of RandomKid, a place where any random kid can find the tools, resources and support they need to launch their ideas for a better world.
The internet's best stories, and interviews with the people who tell them. Learn more