While most days in Jace Biendara's fourth-grade class at Carmel Elementary are spent learning language arts, math and the like, several students suggested they also learn how they could make a difference.

So, after reading about a class project in a magazine, a group spearheaded a two-month-long project collecting bottles and cans for recycling. With the proceeds, the class decided they would help a local organization, the Victor Valley Animal Protection League.

On May 15, the project concluded with VVAPL shelter director Kathy Williamson visiting to Carmel accept a check for $160 from the students.

"This much money could save a dog's life," Williamson said. "It really does make a difference."

During Williamson's visit, a long table held pet food and supplies as an example of the items the money will help purchase. She also brought three furry friends to help bring home the message. With the help of Jade, a student who spearheaded the project, and two other classmates, Williamson introduced "Paws," a tiny black puppy, "Tiger," a kitten, and "Princess Leia," a fluffy 3-year-old pooch.
"She was just a stray little kitten lost in the desert," Williamson said of the kitten.

She also told the story of "Princess Leia."

"She's my dog, and she came to our animal shelter three years ago. Whenever you and your family want a dog or cat you should go to the shelter."

According to Williamson, the shelter goes through 1,000 pounds of dog food a month. The shelter also has its own surgery center, which enables it to spay and neuter animals onsite.

She was also frank with the students: "We have so many animals in our community and in the U.S. that come to be put to sleep."

To put the need into perspective, Mr. Biendara said there are 800 homeless animals every month that come to the shelter.

"That's almost as many as there are kids in the school," he said. "That's a lot. Every little bit makes a big difference. That means that they could give everyone of you a dog and cat the next month."

The class project was much more successful than the students expected. The first time they cashed in their recyclables they got $62. The next time they got $89.

"Our goal was to raise $100," Jade said, "but we got $160. And 160 is a lot to come just from cans and bottles. It proves those little things can make a big difference. This is just really cool."

Mr. Biendara was extremely proud of his students.

"Even as students you can come up with ideas that help other people and animals," he said.

His students agreed.

"This just goes to show that kids can make a difference too," Jade said.