Pat Colangeli, 54, is an English teacher in Circleville, Ohio, who came up with an interesting idea. She gave each of her 20 ninth-grade students $10 and asked what they would do with it.
"I told them, one, you can keep the money," Colangeli said. "If you think you're the best charity in town, keep the money. Two, you can go out and do something on your own. Or, three, you can pool your money with your other classmates and see just how far you can take this $10."
The only string attached: Each student would have to write an essay about where the money went.
"They wouldn't begin talking until a photographer had them each stand up with a $10 bill, and suddenly the was room with abuzz -- with great ideas," Colangeli said.
Said one student: "We got the $10. We felt the money in our hands. It was kind of weird. The first day was kind of a realization we could make this into so much more."
Eleven students worked to help a local family that lost its home and possessions to a fire, and raised $2,800 to help them rebuild their lives.
"It was a family that had lost a lot," another student said. "Part of my family had lost a lot also. It made me feel better that we're giving something back."
Soon, they saw their pool of good will and money expand.
Four students raised $1,300 for the Humane Society. Three students raised $1,200 to help the hungry. One student raised $300 to help battle breast cancer. Another raised $700 to donate to local families with children being treated for cancer at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
Even though their hometown has been struggling with factory closings, the students' drive inspired others.
"They felt obligated," Colangeli said. "Suddenly, somebody gave me $10 and I don't want to keep it. That's not the right thing to do. So then they decide, well, I've gotta do something with it."
The $200 has now become $ 6,300 and counting -- all given away this morning, second period. It was a great moment, but a reminder, perhaps, that their essays are due in two weeks.
"I know that what they are going to be doing is writing from the heart; this is their own personal experience. They're not reading about some person they know nothing about. And I expect to find some very revealing moments."
"The kids have done a tremendous job," Colangeli said. "I'm very proud of them. … I'm very proud of their efforts."
Susan Aasen and Jung Hwa Song contributed to this report.