Lessons in giving

Port High’s Pirate Treasure Program teaches philanthropy by showing students how to turn small individual donations into large gifts for causes of their choosing

PORT WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL students (from left) Brielle Bertler, Michael Ross, Ashley Zygowski and Aofie Doyle worked in a group during the first meeting of the Pirate Treasurer Program last week. Nearly 100 students are participating in the program. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington High School has long had plenty of clubs that involve students in their school and community, but never one like the Pirate Treasure Program.

Launched last week, the initiative brought together more than 60 students to form a group that is more of a charity than a school club, one intended to instill in its members the ethic of giving and empower them to decide how thousands of dollars are used to benefit their community.

“I wasn’t really sure how this was going to work out, but students left our first meeting last week really energized,” Principal Eric Burke said, adding that as of Monday 98 students ahd joined the program.

Burke, a 1986 Port High graduate, came up with the idea after talking with his classmate Greg Giles, who is a member of 100 Men Who Care in the Fond du Lac area.

That organization, like 100+ Women Who Care, which has an Ozaukee County group, expects its members to each make modest donations that together create a sizable gift to a charity or cause chosen by the group.

“Greg was talking about 100 Men and all of a sudden the light kind of went on,” Burke said. “I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do that with kids as a way to teach them about philanthropy and giving back to their community?’

“It also reinforces the idea that you can do a lot of good with just a small donation.”

Each student involved in the Pirate Treasure Program is expected to make a $30 donation every semester. With 98 members, that amounts to $2,940.

In addition, the Port Washington-Saukville Rotary Club will match as much as $1,500 of the students’ donations, giving students $4,440 to give away this semester.

The club has also offered to cover the individual member donation of $30 for any student who can’t afford to do so.

But the real work for students will be choosing causes to support.

At last week’s meeting, Burke told students it was up to them to determine the scope of the Pirate Treasure Program by deciding whether to support programs and causes at Port High only, within the school district or within the school district and Port Washington-Saukville community.

“I gave the kids three options, and about 90% of them favored giving within the entire community,” Burke said. “I wasn’t expecting that, and I think it sends a message that kids are thinking beyond themselves and beyond just their school.”

Burke said he will provide a little guidance, but students are otherwise free to chose anything from school programs and established charities to grass-roots efforts as the beneficiaries of the program.

“A student came to talk to me today and asked if his church, which apparently has a fund to help people who had flood damage not covered by insurance, could apply,” Burke said. “I said, ‘Sure.’”

Students are asking organizations to apply for Pirate Treasure gifts, and on Nov. 2, a group of junior and senior students involved in the program will review the applications and select three finalists. Representatives of the groups that make the cut will be asked on Nov. 28 to make brief presentations to all of the students involved in the program, who will then vote to select a recipient.

Pirate Treasure applications are available on the home page of the school’s website, www.pwssd.k12.wi.us/888, or in the school office. They must be returned by Nov. 2. 

“I really hope we have a lot of applications so the kids have a number of causes to choose from,” Burke said. “They’re really excited.”


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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