For most students at Stuyvesant High School, February marks the beginning of SING!, a season defined by inter-grade competitiveness and long rehearsals after school. The atmosphere vibrates with energy as each division (juniors, seniors, and soph-frosh) seeks to outdo the others in the annual performance.
With so many participants and viewers, SING! is the biggest show of the school year. In fact, it is so popular that it has been deemed by many to be one of the Stuyvesant experiences all students must have before graduating. Due to its size and grandiosity, SING! is one of the school’s most costly endeavors of the year. Each year’s SING! relies on money collected through fundraising done the year before, and this year, SING! has been allocated a $1,250 budget from the Student Union (SU), with an additional $13,800 from membership dues. In past years, SING! has usually spent almost all of its budget, and the same can be expected for this year.
To buoy fundraising this year, the SU introduced the Penny Wars, first suggested by senior Libby Dvir. “Penny Wars was originally designed to raise grade competition and SING! morale. We were just able to tie together this idea to pump up the SING! spirit with a fundraiser,” junior and SU Vice President Kevin Park said. Jars are set up for each of the three SING! divisions, and students can drop coins in their respective jars to add points to their grade’s penny score. Students also have the option to drop dollar bills into jars of other grades, which will decrease that grade’s penny score.
At the end of the event, the penny scores for each grade will be calculated and ranked, serving as extra credit for each grade’s total SING! score, and the total money collected will go toward funding different events such as next year’s SING!, new clubs, and future organizations. The grade that collects the most coins will receive an extra 30 points added to their SING! score, the runner-up will receive an extra 20 points, and third place will receive an extra 10 points.
With the motivation of boosting their scores, students are actively participating in this fundraiser. “SING! gets pretty competitive, and each grade works hard to upstage one another. Because of that, I think Penny Wars is a really effective way to raise money because it uses this competition for fundraising,” sophomore and Director of Soph-Frosh Art Sora Kim said.
The student body responded immediately to the idea, and the jars filled up quickly. In fact, the day the idea was proposed, students were already posting the news on Facebook to get word out and encourage more students to join in. The results were tallied on Thursday, March 1, and announced on the following Saturday during SING!. Soph-frosh came in first place, followed by seniors, and then juniors.
Since students are only encouraged to empty their pockets of loose change, the SU admits that they did not expect to raise thousands of dollars from the fundraiser, but they still consider Penny Wars a success. Unlike in past years, when the SU would orchestrate a series of small-scale fundraisers that raised little in funds, the Penny Wars has created a huge impact on the students. “Never before has there been something that involved the student body at a larger scale,” Park said.
Other students shared Park’s opinion. “Penny Wars is great. It gives students who don’t directly take a part in the production of SING! a chance to help out their grade and join the SING! spirit,” freshman Iris Zhao said.
But amidst all the positive responses lies some negative feedback as well. “Penny Wars might be effective, but I don’t think it’s fair to give points away because of money. It’s like buying your score. Our SING! grade should be based on our talent and quality of our performance,” sophomore and Director of Soph-Frosh Art Judy Lee said. Other students who agreed think that while Penny Wars is a great notion, it is a bit unreasonable.
“Penny Wars is a good way to [fundraise], and I acknowledge that, but I think it’s a little stupid. Points shouldn’t be rewarded because of coin value. It’s not fair game,” junior Timmy Lee said.
However, Penny Wars has been successful overall, attracting much participation from the student body In fact, because of its popularity, the SU has been inspired to create another fundraiser like Penny Wars. “Penny Wars is a great way to raise grade rivalry, and the SU plans to announce another ‘war’ to further push forth the SING! spirit,” Park said.