JFK 8th graders donate portion of proceeds to school nurse

Students earned money through entrepreneurial, Lemonade Day program

Students at JKF in Spring Valley were able to present a check to their school nurse for just over $600 to help with the medical costs for her husband who is battling cancer.

After their recent success as small business owners through the Lemonade Day Program, eighth graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Spring Valley had plenty of options on what to do with their newly earned cash.

Some had to repay their small business “loans,” others put it into their savings, and still others were already planning what they would spend it on as summer break fast approaches.

Jessalynn DeSerf’s group of young entrepreneurs agreed they needed to give a portion back to a good cause. Students also were in agreement the cause would be contributing to Maria Baird, the school nurse and her husband, Derek, who has cancer.

As part of the Lemonade Day Program students learn what it means to be an entrepreneur, they write business plans, create products, develop marketing materials and learn about financial acumen. As part of the financial education portion, Lemonade Day teaches students the importance of saving, spending and giving back.

Baird said her husband was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in January. In the last six months, they have had to travel to the University of Iowa weekly for tests, scans, doctors appointments and chemotherapy treatments.

“The financial impact on any family dealing with cancer is unimaginable,” she said. “The support we have received throughout our family, friends and many members of our community is something my husband and I are thankful for each and every day.”

The students have a personal connection with her that made their philanthropy motivating and meaningful, DeSerf, the seventh and eighth grade math teacher said.

Baird said the Class of 2024 will always hold a special place in her heart for the kindness they have shown her family during this difficult time.

“My family and I would like to not only thank Mrs. DeSerf and her eighth grade math class but also the entire John F. Kennedy student body along with the staff members and administration for their continued support,” she said.

The students presented a check to the Baird family for just more than $600 to help with the medical costs.

Anna Kitts, one of the students who participated, said they decided to donate to Baird’s family because they wanted to help someone in their school and community.

“Many people in our grade know our nurse and her family outside of school so we thought it would be a good opportunity to donate money,” she said. “I think being a philanthropist is an important part of business because it’s always good to give back to the community or your customers.”

One of the takeaways students said they received from the Lemonade Day program was the need to help their community when they can.

“Investing in the well-being of our school nurse and her family not only demonstrates our commitment to empathy and support but also strengthens the bond within our school community,” Leah Pelka, a student at JFK said. “Together, we can make a difference in their lives. Overall, I think this project helped us gain practical skills on entrepreneurship and finance. It also helped us learn the profound impact of giving back to our community.”

Baird said she was overwhelmed with emotions when she was told the eighth grade class chose to donate a portion of the sales to her family.

“Our fight isn’t over yet,” she said. “But, we know we will never have to fight alone.”

The Lemonade Day Program is presented by the Illinois Valley Area Chamber of Commerce and is in its second year in the region. If your school or organization is interested in be a part of next year’s Lemonade Day Program reach out to the chamber at ivaced@ivaced.org or call them at 815-223-0227.

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