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State Honoree

Charlotte Rastas

North Carolina

Charlotte Rastas, 11, of Wilson, N.C., a sixth-grader at Toisnot Middle School, organized an ongoing penny donation campaign that has raised more than $5,000 (so far) to help repair and renovate a fire-damaged science museum in her community. When Charlotte learned that the Imagination Station did not have money to repair the fire damage to its beautiful original building, she wanted to help. “Since I loved the museum, I felt motivated to raise the money myself,” Charlotte said. “I thought a penny drive would be a good fundraiser and be affordable to everyone.” After obtaining her school principal’s permission and support, Charlotte contacted every school in her community, and then recruited her friends to help. “My idea was for everyone to bring in one hundred pennies or as much as they could afford,” she said. Charlotte wrote a poem asking for donations, which she attached to large pickle jars. She sent letters to politicians and corporations, contacted television stations and newspapers, organized a face-painting and crafts fundraiser at a local restaurant, and even judged a chili cook-off. When museum officials asked Charlotte to cut the ribbon at the grand re-opening ceremony, she knew she’d made a difference in her community. “I have not finished yet,” Charlotte said. “This project taught me that you should always aim high and never give up.”