By Devlin Smith
During the 2006-2007 school year, the fifth graders at Phoenix Country Day School in Paradise Valley, Arizona, held a walk-a-thon to raise money for the African Well Fund, collecting more than $11,000. That walk-a-thon has become an annual tradition for the school’s fifth graders and this year they raised nearly $9,000.
Jill Niemczura, a fifth grade teacher at Phoenix Country Day School, answered a few questions about the walk-a-thon and how it ties in with her students’ learning.
Why did the Phoenix Country Day School want to host another fundraiser for the African Well Fund?
The Walk-for-a-Well fundraiser has become a fifth grade tradition for our students. In its fourth year, we now can boast that every student that has traveled through our Middle School (grades 5-8) has participated in this endeavor.
How did the fifth graders raise money?
The students collected pledges from their family, friends and neighbors. On Nov. 20, the students walked laps around our athletic field to symbolize the 3.5-mile journey that women and children in many parts of Africa face everyday when gathering their daily water. Many students went above and beyond this goal in the hour given for the event.
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Was the fundraiser tied into the fifth grade curriculum? If yes, how?
In our fifth grade World Cultures class, half of the year is dedicated to the study of Africa. A few of the topics were explore are geography, regions and current issues affecting Africa. We also learned about issues pertaining to scarcity and how cultures adapt to adversity.
PCDS’ fifth grade also has three interdisciplinary goals of “Sustainability, Respect, and Responsibility.” In all of our disciplines, we aim to help our students understand their role as a “global citizen” and how they can help make the lives of others better.
What goals did the fifth graders have for the fundraiser?
Every year, the students hope to top the amount achieved the year before. The event for our 2008-2009 school year raised $6,002, so this year’s amount raised was really impressive.
What has been their reaction to the nearly $9,000 that was raised?
I think the students take great pride in their achievement and are inspired to continue to look for ways help others.
What impact has this fundraiser had on your students and the school

The Walk-for-a-Well allowed our 10 and 11 year olds the chance to see that you are never too young to contribute to a worthy cause. Our fundraiser was more than raising money, it gave the students a chance to empathize with people on the other side of the world and be creative and resourceful in helping.
What advice do you have for other schools considering raising money for AWF or other nonprofit organizations?
I think the best thing a school can do would be to make fundraising interesting and relevant. Our students had fun taking part in the event, and past participants from other grades look fondly on the memories that their day created.
It is also important to have the backing of a great community. Many parents and teachers came to the event, helped count laps, brought snacks and cheered our student onto their goals. I am especially grateful to our grade representative parents who organized our volunteer helpers.