School Cents program comes to OPHS

Local schools raise money by collecting receipts at the Thousand Oaks mall

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Founder and owner of Shopping Partnership, Nora Levy, got the idea of creating this company while she was a Marketing Director for a local shopping center. She knew that the program would be successful and decided to refocus her time on Shopping Partnership.

Shopping Partnership strives to support schools and shopping plazas through school rewards programs. School Cents is one of the many fundraising programs that Shopping Partnership employs for the benefit of schools. Levy mentioned that each shopping center Shopping Partnership works with is unique.

Students, parents, staff and other supporters can submit their receipts from Sept. 1 to May 30, 2019 online from The Oaks mall and raise money for the Oak Park High School Parent Faculty Association in a competition with 25 local K-12 schools. Anyone can earn money for their schools based on the number of points accumulated by each school throughout the eight months, earning prizes ranging from $250 to $2,500 by the time the program ends.

The prizes come in the form of gift cards rather than cash or checks. Using these gift cards, schools will be able to use to buy classroom supplies, support student incentive programs, assist with school fundraising or purchase any other of the schools’ needs.

Since 1992, Shopping Partnership has worked to incorporate school rewards programs, such as School Cents, to support local businesses by making the area overall more investable due to public image and awareness.

Senior Cameron Tescher recently learned about the School Cents program and said believes program can help the businesses participating, since they will be gaining more profit.

“There are stores that I feel that would actually help expand jobs and furthering the wages,” Tescher said. “It’s important to expand the mall’s economy so more businesses can be more profitable, people around this area can have access to different jobs and [workers can] have higher wages.”

The Oaks mall began participating in the School Cents program in 2008, and stopped in 2015 due to its new focus to “other philanthropic opportunities,” according to Levy. The mall is revamping participating for the 2018-19 school year.

According to the Shopping Partnership website, from 2008 to 2015, The Oaks mall has given $125,300 to participating schools.

Each school will win a minimum of $250 by participating in School Cents. There is a grand prize of $2,500 awarded to the school that has the most points at the end of the contest. The runner-up wins $2,000, and third place wins $1,500. Schools that place from fourth place to 20th place will earn a maximum of $1,000, and a minimum of $350.

When Shopping Partnership was founded, Levy’s older daughter was in kindergarten.

“The shopping center marketing program’s purpose is to support the individual businesses within the center, and to work with the local community to partner on important causes,” Levy wrote to the Talon. “Supporting local schools fits perfectly with this goal.”

Schools have different ideas of what they’d spend the money on if they were to win.

“Aspen [Elementary School] hopes to earn money for ongoing improvements,” Aspen Elementary School PFA Rewards Coordinator Rekha Krishnankutty wrote to the Talon. “But we can also help the local economy by encouraging our families to shop at our local mall.”

There are more than 150 businesses participating and eligible for the School Cents fundraiser. All businesses at The Oaks mall are included: kiosks like the Wetzel’s Pretzels, restaurants like Panda Express, stores like American Eagle Outfitters, etc.

Levy wrote that some schools use the money won to buy basic classroom necessities like paper or writing utensils, while some use the funds for larger projects like acquiring new technology.

“Quite simply, there is never enough money for our schools,” Levy wrote.

After students and Oak Park families spend money at The Oaks mall, there are two available options on how to submit a receipts to earn points for Oak Park school.

Families can either scan and upload a copy of the receipt, or simply turn in the physical receipt to the student store.

Points will also be offered by attending events and community programs offered by The Oaks mall.

“I would definitely participate [in the School Cents program,]” freshman Aileen Xia wrote to the Talon. “It’s an easy way to benefit our school. It could fund recreational activities like field trips, school dances and school activities. We could also use money to improve the quality of our education through use of school supplies like textbooks, and equipment for sports.”

Pamela Krys, the high school’s PFA Vice President of Fundraising, worked with School Cents in the past when she was a PFA member at Woodland Hills Elementary School.

“Nothing is set in stone yet — but if we were to win, OPHS PFA would probably use the gift cards for Teacher Appreciation week,” Krys wrote to the Talon.

While some schools are participating purely for the money, Redwood Middle School is participating in hopes of gaining more public recognition, in addition to possibly getting a new hydration station to surround classrooms and departments.

“We hope to win the program to put our school name out there for new parents coming to the area to know Redwood is the place to have your child come to school,” Luna wrote.

Paula Nathan, the Thousand Oaks High School PTSA President, said that TOHS has participated in School Cents in the past for classroom needs and graduation supplies, and in support of local businesses.

The 25 local schools participating continue to collect as many points as possible to win prizes for their students and teachers.

“School Cents is a great example of how different influential organizations (such as The Oaks businesses, local schools, and other community groups) can come together to support each other and improve the quality of their community,” Levy wrote.

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