Trying to raise $100,000 to counter increases in student fees at Lawrence public schools is as challenging as hitting three-point baskets and all the right notes in the musical "South Pacific."
"Harder than ever imagined, but worth it," said Jackie Ferguson, who, along with friend Rosy Elmore, formed Citizens for Students. "It's like a full-time job."
They formed the group after Lawrence's cash-strapped school board imposed unprecedented fee increases for the 2002-2003 year. The board adopted a pay-to-participate fee structure that charged students $50 for each sport, cheerleading or after-school program they joined. In addition, a $25 fee was started for nonsports activities such as debate, orchestra, choir and band.
Both women were concerned increases in extracurricular fees, as well as basic enrollment fees, would exclude students who were unable to pay.
So Citizens for Students set up a system of funneling tax-deductible donations to the school district, which is in charge of distributing money to families.
So far, they've raised about $25,000. About one-third of the total has paid for enrollment fees, with the remainder set aside for extracurricular activities.
Scott Morgan, school board president, said he was impressed by the group's effort.
"Anything they do will defray the cost to kids," he said. "It's amazing they've been able to do as much as they have."
Money has been donated by students who pulled pennies from their pockets and by anonymous donors who have written checks for thousands of dollars.
"We've had great positive support from the community, from people who don't even have children involved," Ferguson said. "Very few, if anybody, says they can't help in some way."
Ferguson said the group's next fund-raising event would be an auction of donated merchandise, gym memberships, vacations, sports memorabilia and gift certificates. It's set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at Abe & Jake's Landing, 8 E. Sixth St. Tickets are $25.
"With the auction, we're hoping to pick up a big chunk of change," she said.
Revenue from the auction will be earmarked to cover part of students' sports participation fees and extracurricular-activity fees.
Donations may be sent to P.O. Box 4497, Lawrence 66046. Make checks payable to Lawrence public schools, but include a notation that makes clear the donation is for the student-fee campaign.