Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza and Erin Rogers met in the summer of 2019 because they wanted to be members of Long Beach Poly’s swim team.
Hong is the freshman/sophomore captain and specializes in the 100 meter individual medley and 100 meter free; Migliazza prefers longer races competing in breaststroke and freestyle; Rogers is a breaststroker; as is Matlock.
But when it came to preparing a business plan in Jeff Montooth’s Accelerated Economics class in Poly’s enhanced learning program called PACE (Program of Additional Curricular Experiences), it was all they could do to tread water.
Most years, Montooth has his students solve an environmental problem, but this past academic year, he had to throw out all the rules and he gave his students the option of doing something charity-based.
“We knew our business plan could be the environment or COVID-19, so we chose COVID,” Hong said. “It was just supposed to be a plan.”
It turned out to be much, much more.
Even though Montooth would do a Zoom session with each group of students, most of the work had to be done while everyone was in quarantine and not able to meet face-to-face.
“First we were just going to ask for donations,” Migliazza said, “but then Lauryn and Erin said, ‘let’s do a coloring book.’”
The girls agreed that the coloring book could be a fun, but teachable moment for younger kids.
“Our goal is to educate kids on the coronavirus and entertain them during quarantine,” Matlock said. "We wanted to teach them, but we didn’t want to scare them. We wanted to make it kid friendly.”
The girls anticipated selling about 25 of the books to family and friends at the cost of $5 per book and the profits going to different organizations including Miller’s Children’s & Women’s Hospital, Black Lives Matter and Long Beach disaster relief.
Twenty-five books? How about 476 books.
“We had a bunch of pre-orders,” Migliazza said. "A lot of friends and parents shared our Instagram account and PACE parents shared it, too.”
Rogers said the coloring book has three main characters — Al E. Gator, Sam the Snail and Wally the Narwhal — and it shows each character staying at home and shows them washing their hands.
“In the back of the book we hand-placed a kid-sized mask along with a thank you note from the four of us,” she said.
Montooth marvels at the ingenuity of his students and said he is genuinely impressed with what these 15-year-olds can do given the opportunity. Not only was a coloring book produced, but other teams made masks and still others put together gift baskets.
“We have amazing kids at Poly and Poly PACE,” he said, “Instead of trying to lecture to them, I would meet with the team and they would share pictures and stories. They didn’t know how to do the printing, so I sent out an email to parents to see if they knew a printer. It’s a great story of people coming together to do good.”
ABC Press in Signal Hill dived in to help the girls.
“The printers were wonderful,” said Matlock, who was the go-to person for all things financial. “They actually reduced the price by about 60%. That way the extra money could go to the organizations that we chose to help.”
So, while 81 people have purchased the books, at least 15 more are waiting for a second printing. Additionally, the book has been requested, and accepted, to be part of the 2020 Long Beach Historical Society time capsule. And if that’s not enough, the girls are planning to produce a second coloring book by the end of summer.
“It’s going to be about racism,” Hong said. “We are trying to talk about topics that are scary but give kids a way to talk about it in a not-scary way.”
The girls have cleared more than $2,500 and a major corporation got wind of their efforts and has promised to match whatever they donate.
“It was challenging and scary, but it is so great when kids group together to do something positive,” Montooth said. “What I try to stress over and over is to do something good for others rather than for just a grade.
“We really have a special community here in Long Beach.”
To purchase the coloring book, go to covidcoloringbook.wixsite.com/covidcoloringbook.