What do 130,970 pennies look like? Students in kindergarten through sixth grades at Estes Elementary School in Marana know. That’s how many of the copper coins they raised to beat out 117 other schools statewide to win the Arizona CENTennial Penny Drive.

Nearly 70,000 students participated in the competition, during which they collected pennies to finance the cleaning, resealing and brightening of the Arizona State Capitol Copper Dome.

Estes students raised $1,309.70. Statewide, $23,757.45 in pennies have been reported as collected, with some school yet to weigh in.

To celebrate, Estes Elementary, 11279 W. Grier Road, held a schoolwide pep rally on May 20. On hand were Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal, representatives of Arizona Centennial sponsor Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, and penny drive partner Bashas’ Family of Stores. Students also met the Arizona Centennial’s official mascot, the Copper Chopper, and were presented with a commemorative copper coin with the Arizona flag from Freeport-McMoRan.

“In the excitement of receiving the collections from schools across the state, we had great anticipation of who the top-collecting school would be,” said Karen Churchard, director of the Arizona Centennial Commission and 2012 Foundation. “It was a close race between a few schools, and we were pleased to finally announce that Estes Elementary School had collected the most pennies. It’s heartwarming to see the enthusiasm of these students, and their teachers, too, who embraced this once-in-a-lifetime project that is creating a legacy for all Arizona students.”

Estes Elementary School Principal Nancy Paddock, said: “From the beginning, our teachers and students alike were enthusiastic participants in the Arizona CENTennial Penny Drive. We recognized immediately the historical significance of this opportunity, and took it as an opportunity to discover new facets of Arizona’s history, plus act to collect the pennies. We are just delighted that the enthusiasm carried through to energize our students to gather more pennies than any other school in the state. It’s an honor and we are proud to be a part of this ‘legacy.’”

The school’s initial interest in the program came from students in fourth-grade teacher Rosa Islas’ class, said Paddock. History is included in the fourth-grade’s learning standards, and as a part of their curriculum, the kids had traveled to Phoenix to see the State Capitol. 

Each week, Mrs. Islas’ students collected pennies in manila envelopes from their classmates and tallied the amount. The class then coordinated announcements over the school’s public address system to let students know which classrooms were in the lead.

The Arizona CENTennial Penny Drive was a program developed by teachers for teachers and coordinated by a statewide committee of educators and supporters. The Penny Drive occurred over 48 school days, beginning Feb. 9, with penny collection ending April 15. The 48 school-day campaign reflected Arizona’s place as the 48th state admitted into the union.

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