Common Cents New York, a public charity founded in 1991, is dedicated to animating the resources of society to benefit children, and the resources of children to benefit society. To accomplish this, the organization designs and offers young people enjoyable projects with meaningful outcomes that contribute to their own growth, and the well-being of others.
In 1994, Common Cents forged a partnership with the Chancellor of the New York City Board of Education to provide age-appropriate community service to all city students. These programs are designed to help young people develop and enjoy the skills to make them indispensable resources to their communities.
One program is the Penny Harvest, an annual fall campaign that involves schools and the surrounding community in recycling the resource of idle pennies. In four years, the program has grown from serving 50,000 students in 54 schools to 400,000 students in 470 schools, while the annual dollar yield has increased from $16,000 to $275,000.
Once the pennies become dollars, Common Cents Student Roundtables swing into action, turning the dollars into deeds. In 1997, the organization provided ongoing instruction to teachers running Student Roundtables in 53 Elementary, Middle and High Schools across the city – plus a citywide Roundtable of high school student leaders, called the Student Community Action Fund (SCAF). Over 770 students discovered the challenges and rewards of philanthropy by responsibly allocating 185 well-researched grants – 139 to neighborhood charities and 46 to youth-run community service projects in New York schools.
Common Cents also pilots Cookies & Dreams, a literacy and near-peer mentoring program with an inherently fun, semi-structured format. The program trains middle school students to be responsible and creative teachers of preschoolers, and then offers them ongoing support as they take on the responsibility of tutoring their buddies in reading and language-based play. Cookies & Dreams currently runs in two public schools as part of the curriculum and as an after-school program at a private Manhattan school, where advantaged middle schoolers are paired with preschool children from a transitional shelter.