AUGUSTA — The Cony Middle and High School auditorium looked like a supermarket Thursday morning.

Cereal boxes — 1,333 of them — were lined up in a spiral to create a domino effect as part of the Jobs for Maine Graduates program at Cony to show the impact of philanthropy.

The idea started when JMG teacher Shelley Couture asked the students if they thought of themselves as philanthropists. When they said they did not, Couture said, the students started to think they had to make large donations to be considered philanthropic.

Bob Moore, Augusta Food Bank executive director, talks to Jobs for Maine Graduates members after the domino-style cereal box toppling event Thursday at Cony High in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“The confusion came around the fact that we have to do something big to make an impact,” Couture said. “The students asked, ‘What if we did one big thing?’ Then they realized it’s like a domino. If you have one, it’s plain. If you line up the whole box and knock it over, it’s impressive.”

The students thought large and came up with a goal to feed 1,000 families across central Maine. To do that, the students figured if everyone brought in a cereal box, the goal could be accomplished.

Soon enough, community members, faculty members and students raced to bring in the boxes over the two-week window the students set for themselves. The philanthropy event was open to all of Augusta’s public schools, and Couture said in the first couple of days, her classroom was brimming with cereal boxes.

Trix boxes fall during the cereal box domino event Thursday at Cony High in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Junior Keygan Wyman, president of the Career Association, loaded 140 cereal boxes into his Subaru Outback, which he said was “full front to back.” Wyman spent some of his own money, bringing in six boxes, and the JMG association gave him nearly $200 to spend at Hannaford on cereal.

“I feel good giving back, especially around this time,” Wyman said. “With COVID and everything, not everyone can go to work.”

Senior Zakk Roy brought in 100 boxes, spending his own money on them. Since he was the student who brought in the most boxes, Roy was the person to knock down the first box to start the boxes falling like dominoes.

“I’ve always liked to give to those that are less fortunate,” he said. “As a junior firefighter, it’s good to give to the community. I hope it goes to people that need it more than me.”

The Cony community raised 1,333 boxes and will donate them to the Augusta Food Bank.

At the event, four students spoke on the fact that Maine ranks 12th in the nation for food insecurity and one out of every six families struggle to put food on the table.

Jobs for Maine’s Graduates members, left, watch the cereal box dominos fall as faculty members record the event Thursday at Cony High in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Bob Moore, the executive director of the Augusta Food Bank, said the boxes will feed families for up to four months and families will appreciate the variety of cereal.

“The boxes cost around $3 to $5 each,” Moore told the JMG students. “Now we have about $5,000 we can spend on something else.”

The students were excited about the prize awarded to the classroom that brought in the most cereal boxes – the class will be able to collectively choose someone from administration to get a pie in their face. Many of them had their bets on Principal Kim Silsby.

“I’m really proud of all of their hard work and the help they have done to help hunger across central Maine,” Silsby said.

JMG is a nonprofit organization and has 140 programs in Maine schools.

At Cony, the program is a semester long and students have to qualify to take the course either through IEPs or other factors such as being economically disadvantaged. Through the program, students are taught life skills and how to prepare for life after college, regardless of the post secondary option they decide to do.

Couture said the end goal is to help students find careers about which they are passionate.

Students at Cony’s JMG challenged Gardiner Area High School and Erskine Academy’s programs to collect 1,000 cereal boxes in a two-week span.

Students at Cony said they thought the winning school would receive a “cereal trophy,” but junior Tyson Tibbetts said bragging rights against Gardiner would be enough.

Emily Duggan — 207-233-3356

[email protected]

Twitter: @emilyduggannews


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