SPRINGFIELD TWP.  Students at Young Elementary School wanted to help animals and began their project by collecting empty water bottles to help the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

The Student Lighthouse Leadership team made up of two representatives from each classroom came up with the idea to support the ASPCA. For the students, it was an important organization to support.

Principal Jennifer Ganzer said this is the first year to implement a Student Lighthouse Team.

"It’s been so exciting to see how these young children are taking the initiative to lead this project," she said. "They did the planning and handled all the communication with the staff and student body."

Advisors for the young leaders are Sonya Cunningham, Title I reading; and literacy tutor and Kate McFeaters, intervention tutor.

The team of leaders asked Young Elementary students to save water bottles and bring them into school. From there, they added new labels that read "Paws for a Cause" and passed them out to students to collect change to support the ASPCA.

They created a presentation for the students in the school about their idea to support ASPCA and presented it during one of the weekly town hall meetings.

During the presentation, students of the Lighthouse Team first thanked their fellow students for bringing in all the water bottles.

The team then spoke to the students about how they had decided to raise money to help the animals. The leaders informed their schoolmates that the ASPCA helps all kinds of animals, not just dogs and cats, but also animals like horses and lizards. The workers help to take care of sick animals and they also help people to adopt animals to be a part of their family.

"Animals need to have the kind and respectful treatment from their humans," said one of the team leaders. "When people aren’t treating their animals kindly, then ASPCA will come in and take the animals away."

People from all over the country give money to ASPCA because it costs money to take care of the animals. For only 63 cents, an animal can get a meal.

The speakers added, "We are their voice because animals can’t talk to people so the ASPCA does the talking for them."

The students explained that it is much like the way that the Student Lighthouse Team is the voice for the school.

"Every pet needs someone to love them. Many of you have helped us collect the empty water bottles for the project and now please take them home and have your family put some money into the bottle to help," said the team.

April 10 was ASPCA day and the students asked for the school to wear something orange in support.

As the filled bottles came in, they were placed in the showcase to be displayed for all to see.

There is still some collecting and counting going on, and the students have collected more than 100 water bottles filled with change adding up to more than $800. One piece of trivia learned from the team was that if you fill a water bottle with dimes, it will equal $100.

Ganzer said the team has taken ownership and are leading in exceptional ways. Projects, such as Paws for a Cause, will show students that they can make a difference in the community.

"We have a quote above our showcase here at Young School by Margaret Mead and it says, 'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world,' " Ganzer said. "This student-led project is an example of how our students are getting an opportunity to do just that."