Red River High School students raised more than $20,000 this spring for personal care items that will be distributed to middle and high school students in need in the Grand Forks school district.

About 60 students who’ve been studying marketing in Maggie Uetz’ class for the past two years started raising the money for the school’s Grab Bag program in April. Students made initial contacts, or “cold-called,” the businesses.

They asked hundreds of area businesses for sponsorships to purchase items students need this summer, Uetz said.

“We said we were looking for sponsorships for the Grab Bag program to give daily necessities to students,” especially the most needy students, said Shri Patel, a sophomore.

Probitas Promotions of Grand Forks provided 150 bags for the project, Uetz said.

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Her students stuffed the bags with items they purchased, such as shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, sunscreen, gum, feminine hygiene products, body wash, granola, instant oatmeal and gift cards for River Cinema movie theaters, Hugo’s grocery stores, Deek's Pizza and Red Pepper.

Deek’s Pizza donated cards worth $1,300 and the Red Pepper contributed $1,500 in gift cards, Uetz said.

School social workers determined which students are eligible to receive the grab bags and distributed them.

“Some of my classmates are not as fortunate as I am,” said Kaylee Lancaster, a sophomore.

She and other students said working on the project raised their self-confidence and helped them to improve their skills.

“I think it will help me in the future, especially in communicating with other people,” Lancaster said. “I’m more confident in talking with other people.”

Patel learned more about the community, she said. “(The project) gave us real life experience.”

“There were businesses that hung up or didn’t answer you,” Patel said. “You had to learn how to handle people rejecting your offer. But we persevered.”

Ally Muus, a junior who co-founded the project last year, said her goal was “to help other kids in our community.”

The project “was a good way to prove ourselves and what we could do,” Muus said. It showed other students that “marketing (class) wasn’t just an elective, that marketing had a purpose.”

Callie Mazk, a junior who co-founded the project last year, said her fellow students “know what we do, but they don’t know the full potential of what we’ve done. They see our display board with all the money we’ve raised.

“Students, and the community, should know we’re doing something more.”

Mazk and her classmates said that, while the district’s elementary students benefit from the Back Pack program, students at the middle and high school levels do not have similar support.

School social workers “have more hoops to jump through” in order to help students obtain basic necessities, Muus said.

The Grab Bag fundraising effort allows social workers “more flexibility,” Uetz said. For example, she knows of a social worker who took a foster child to Wal-mart to buy necessities and another who was given money to “buy shoes for a child with nothing,” Uetz said.

In her marketing class, students learn about “cause marketing,” she said, and “what the benefit is to businesses.”

“About 40 percent of the students in our district are on free or reduced lunch, so there’s definitely a need,”said Uetz, adding that the project is “a great learning experience for kids to do something that felt real, rather than theoretical."

“And it feels great when you get a sale, or even a meeting, and knowing you can reach kids who are in need,” Patel said.

The project “reflects positively on the school as well,” Muus said.

"It breaks the stigma that high school students can’t do things, or they’re lazy or don’t work hard," Patel said.

This isn’t the first successful project conducted by Uetz’ marketing students. Last year, her students raised $10,000 for the Grab Bag project.