Story by Linda Meyers, World Ark contributor
Photos courtesy of Ad Astra Photography

SHAWNEE, Kan. — When hundreds of students, teachers, school board and community members pour into a school gym to celebrate a joint victory, you know it’s for something big.

Prairie Ridge Elementary School in Shawnee set out to do an “all-building” activity to work together toward a common goal, said Michelle Hite, principal of the school. Most activities are classroom-based, but Heifer’s Read to Feed program engaged all students, kindergarten through fifth grades.  “It’s an attractive program for student participation because of the dual purpose achieved through love of reading and service to the global community,” Hite said.

Cindy Sellers Roach of Heifer poses with Michelle Hite, principal, and Candace Luschen, media specialist.
Cindy Sellers Roach of Heifer poses with Michelle Hite, principal, and Candace Luschen, media specialist.

That big thing they were all celebrating turned out to be a very large check for $10,205.45 that representatives presented to Cindy Sellers Roach, community engagement manager for Heifer International.

They expected to raise about $1,500 in the 30-day campaign, Hite said. So they were understandably excited and proud of their students for raising so much to help others in need.

Hite credited Candace Luschen, the school’s media specialist, with identifying and organizing the program. Most importantly, Luschen inspired the students and got them excited about reading by telling them about the effect their donations would have on families in need around the world.

“Showing students how education sends ripples of positive change through the world is one of the highest callings teachers have in leaving lasting imprints on the lives of those in their care,” Hite said.

Luschen added, “Each class decided on the amount that they wanted to raise. The students were the driving force behind the success of this fundraiser, and I give them all of the credit. I just organized the paperwork for it.”

Students at Prairie Ridge Elementary in Shawnee, Kan. share their favorite Read to Feed books.
Students at Prairie Ridge Elementary in Shawnee, Kan., share their favorite Read to Feed books.

With Read to Feed, students get sponsors for the amount they read. Their gift of farm animals and training helps families around the world begin a life of hope and opportunity. For teachers in need of innovative, creative ways to meet multiple education standards and improve literacy skills, Read to Feed helps meet Common Core and other standards and inspires global citizenship among students.

The impact, Sellers Roach noted, is significant. “What these students and their teachers have done is incredible. Through Heifer’s model of Passing on the Gift, this donation will quite literally help hundreds of families move out of hunger and poverty and towards a sustainable livelihood. Other children will eat better and be able to go to school themselves. Whole communities will be impacted by the livestock and training this donation provides. Prairie Ridge Elementary has a lot to be proud of in these young people!”

For details on Read to Feed, or to order materials, please visit, call 877-275-READ (7323) or email

Read more donor stories on When Cows Fly!