Fourth graders at Tyler ISD’s Jack Elementary are combining their entrepreneurial skills with their big hearts to help their classmates that don’t always bring money for school fundraiser events.

It started a month ago when one of their classmates didn’t check out a library book and that got them thinking. Merus Redwing and Zoe Zolksoski decided they’d help their classmate Angie Ruiz.

“Angie loves to read and is always reading, but she couldn’t get a new book because she had lost a library book and needed to either find it or replace it,” Zolksoski said. “We wanted to help Angie pay for her lost book so she could get another one to read. We also wanted to help others in our class.”

After helping Ruiz, the two students invited her and all three united their leadership skills they learned from Tyler ISD’s Leadership in Me program, and brainstormed ways to raise money. Some of their classmates were already selling rubber band bracelets, but Redwing, Zolksoski and Ruiz decided to take it to the next level and they began selling handmade jewelry and other crafts.

When Zolksoski told her parents, she said they were fully supportive of her idea and took her to the store to buy the jewelry making kit.

Two more classmates, Sarah Smith and McKenzie Bowling, quickly joined in and the new venture of “A to Z Crafts” began.

The students find time to make their creations at recess, where they have invited all the girls in their class to help. The money they receive from selling the crafts stays in a case in the classroom, and anytime a student forgets their money for fundraisers like Kona Ice Day or Pizza by the Slice Days, they use that money to help cover that expense.

The fundraiser event days are usually paid for two days before the event, so there is time to put in the money to cover their classmates’ expenses.

“We like helping others. Sometimes when we need help, we talk to our friends. Our group name, we call each other ‘The Truthful Girls’ because we tell the truth to each other,” Zolksoski said.

The girls have decided to call their friend group “The Truthful Girls” because they have learned honesty through the Tyler ISD Leader in Me program.

Since the launch of their small business, the girls have made bookmarks, keychains, necklaces, bracelets, rings, pins and earrings.

Many of their creations also include encouraging words like “sparkle,” “love,” and “be happy.” To drum up business, the girls spent the first day giving away their creations. Then, they began selling them for 25 cents to $1 each. They said they like to spread joy through the positive messages in the jewelry.

The program teaches students leadership skills, supports educators in creating a culture of student empowerment and builds student skills for academic and life success.

The Leader in Me program integrates practices from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and strategies to develop focus, taking action, being accountable and goal achievement.

Jack Elementary School has become a Lighthouse School as it has incorporated all aspects of the Leader in Me principles into the campus. Jack is among an elite group across the country to achieve Lighthouse status.

“(A habit) that’s really important to me is having a ‘Find your voice’ and helping others find theirs. It’s very important to this business because you find your voice by doing this business and help others find theirs by giving them and helping them through this and helping them with the fundraisers, and also finding your voice by giving them the bracelets and the girls that help us make the bracelets, that’s helping find theirs too,” Redwing said.

The girls said that so far, it’s a total of seven girls making the creations, but hopefully it will be eight soon.

The girls’ teacher, Kelly Bogenschutz, said she believes that at least half her class has benefited from the girls’ business, and it’s had a positive impact in the classroom. “I think it’s such a selfless and thoughtful act that these girls are doing,” Bogenschutz said. “Their business started with wanting to help one friend, and it turned into them helping others in our class as well. If a friend is unable to pay for certain things or activities, the girls are ready to help. It’s nice seeing them give as much as they do,” she said.

“I think it’s sending a message of just, acts of kindness can go such a long way and Zoe got just a fun, little kit she wanted to do jewelry with, and then they thought, ‘Maybe we can help the class with this.’ It took off way more than we thought it would be, but to the kids who forget their money, I think it really helps them understand that there’s someone that cares about them and who wants them to receive the fun things that we get to do at school,” Bogenschutz said. “I think our class as a whole has really benefited from that. Seeing that, if you forget something, it’s OK. Somebody is here to help you out and it’s awesome.”

Principal Brett Shelby said although he is proud of the girls for wanting to help their classmates, he is even more impressed with how they have used their leadership skills to make the business a success.

“I’m really lucky to be able to work at a school that cares more about academics, but also creating just a whole person through being a leader, through helping others, through finding their own voice, and just learning to get a great work ethic as well,” Bogenschutz said.