A young man with a big idea, a lofty goal, insurmountable courage, and drive set out to make an impact. That he did…at 100%.
As fourth grader Miller Vargas sat with his family around the dinner table, he shared his vision and was met with much enthusiasm by his parents, Tony and Valerie Vargas, older sister Isabella and younger brother Patton.
This is his story as told in a Q&A format, with Rosalyn Merrick, Chief Philanthropy Officer and Shelley Clifford, Head of Lower School.
How did Miller set the stage for his idea?
SC: Miller first approached his homeroom teacher, Mrs. Sophie Lintner with the idea that he and his siblings came up with. He was eager to get the process of approval started. As I heard the story of the Vargas children’s dinner table conversation, we explored the ideas of involving the whole student body in raising money for the School. Miller asked and answered many questions, demonstrating his entrepreneurial spirit. Together, we determined the next best step would be to share the concept with Mrs. Merrick, Chief Philanthropy Officer as all fund(and FUNd)-raising efforts must be approved through her office to make sure they are in line with the mission and vision of the School and thoughtfully considerate of the community.
How was the genesis of the concept explained?
RM: Miller shared that he and his siblings were inspired by their parents’ engagement in MV and brainstormed how students might leave an impression/impact as well. They came up with the Class of Fun’d to raise money in celebration of their classes. The idea was to ask their classmates to join them in earning money through doing chores (emphasizing the concept of helping others to raise support for something you believe in) to reach a dollar goal representing their class year, i.e. $20.24. If the students repeat this campaign every year and accumulate the dollars (in an interest-bearing account) there would be a HUGE balance to give to the School as a “class gift.” In the meantime, students would be rewarded with a pizza party and non-uniform day for reaching 100% participation. As a show of support of their children’s awesome campaign idea, Tony and Valerie Vargas committed to sponsoring the pizza party.
What was your initial response?
RM: My answer was YES! I was moved and inspired by our students’ interest and initiative to determine the best and most fun way to support the School – just wow! I was happy to help in any way I could, to make their efforts successful.
How involved were you in the execution of the plan?
SC: Both Mrs. Merrick and I helped guide Miller, but he came up with specific ideas and executed them, himself. He used lunch times, PE classes, and recesses to carve out time to meet with Mrs. Merrick. He had to deliver a pitch, submit communication samples, and create a timeline. Building his solution seeker muscles with feedback from the two of us, Miller set goals, developed a plan of action, and tested solutions.
What actions did Miller take to accomplish his goals?
SC: After a lot of hard work and preparation, Miller, with the help of his homeroom teacher, called a Town Hall Meeting. The fourth graders gathered in the Kindergarten Commons to hear their classmate and friend pitch his idea of how together – they could help the School. He explained how much the School does for each of them, and described the fundraising efforts to which the parent community is committed. Then he shared his idea: What if each student raised a dollar amount that represented the year in which they would graduate? For Miller’s class that amount was $20.24. Miller enthusiastically shared the story of where the idea came from, as well as a couple of incentives:
- Each homeroom with 100% participation would get a non-uniform day.
- Upon 100% fourth grade participation, the Vargas family would host a grade-wide pizza party.
How did the students respond?
SC: The day before the deadline, Miller was discouraged by the low percentage of participation. He and a few of his classmates rallied together to brainstorm solutions with Mrs. Merrick. She encouraged them to consider the benefit of extending the campaign to rally everyone around the most important goal: 100% participation. He further encouraged students to participate by sharing reminders over the PA system during morning announcements.
RM: He also made a passionate appeal for support at the end of Chapel that week, reminding his classmates of the opportunity and reward – this was entirely Miller’s idea and he sought out Mr. B on his own to make sure he could use the time as well as the platform. On the day of the new extended deadline, we received word that Miller Vargas truly became a multiplier. Under his leadership and influence, the fourth grade reached 100% participation in the Class of FUNd project!
What was the reaction from adults with whom you shared Miller’s initiative?
SC: Each adult – Miller’s parents, homeroom teacher, principal, and administration showed support and encouragement for Miller. We held him to high standards, requiring him to take full ownership of executing his big idea: meeting deadlines, sacrificing personal time, receiving feedback on communication and collaboration efforts along the way. Everyone wanted Miller to have a positive experience and learn what it means to lead an effort. The adults were prepared to celebrate Miller’s success of meeting his goal, but they were also prepared that this may be a fail up circumstance for him. Fundraising is not an easy job, but turning it into FUNdraising seemed to be the ticket!
How can experience, if it is possible, be flowed through to other classes/divisions?
SC: Miller’s original idea was to launch his idea school-wide. In learning about how to start a new initiative and iterate ideas, the second idea was just to start in Lower School. However, the more Miller learned about all that was involved, he decided to start with the fourth grade only — his largest sphere of influence. We all agreed to reflect and evaluate the process before we decided if this idea might expand to a second year. Next year, Miller’s goal is to expand his efforts to Bella’s and Patton’s grades while continuing with his own.
What a practical lesson Miller has taught us…
Anyone and everyone can make an impact!