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High School Kids Featured on Trading Cards

High school kids in Wildwood, New Jersey, don't have to make it to the pros to make it onto a trading card! Good grades, good character, and community and school service can get their photo and statistics on a trading card -- which are given as rewards to elementary and middle school students. Young kids who earn five cards get a free lunch. Included: A description of how to set up a trading card program.

Though many administrators have banned trading cards from their schools, some schools in Cape May County, New Jersey, are passing them out.

But instead of pictures of professional athletes or cartoon characters, these cards have photos of local high school students who excel in school and community activities.

An all-star trading card from Wildwood High School.

Part of the "All-Star Trading Cards Program," the cards are coveted by elementary and middle school students, who receive them as rewards for good attendance and making the honor roll. When students collect five cards, they can pick one of the high school students whose card they have to join them for lunch at a local Pizza Hut. The students are chaperoned by a police officer.

"I think it's fabulous," said Tracey Melchiorre, a third-grade teacher at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, one of the participating schools. "It's a real motivator. [Elementary school students] think the high school kids are superstars."


This is the second year for the program, and it has caught on fast. At the end of the first marking period in November, students had received more than 800 cards. As of late February, 34 elementary school students had already earned five cards each, said Betty Harshaw, the school system's public relations coordinator, who oversees the program.

At the end of each marking period, Harshaw and some of the Wildwood High School students in the program, called "trading card kids," distribute cards to younger students.

The middle and elementary students like to read the "stats" on the back of each card, such as the activities in which the high school student participates, and they talk about the students and trade the cards, Harshaw told Education World.

"I'm excited to get five cards and go to Pizza Hut," said Shae, a third grader who so far has earned three cards.


This year, 42 high school juniors and seniors are participating in the program. Sixty-five were invited to apply, Harshaw said. She launched the program last year after hearing about a similar activity at another school district while at a convention for school board members. Funding for Wildwood's program is provided by the Greater Wildwood Municipal Alliance and the Governor's Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

A panel that includes high school and elementary school faculty, administrators, and the president of the board of education reviews each student's application and decides which high schoolers to feature.

To qualify, students need at least a 2.5 grade point average. Applicants must provide a list of school and community activities and explain in writing why they think they should be picked and their definition of a role model. They also have to sign a pledge agreeing to maintain their academic average, be drug- and alcohol-free, and serve as role models.

"This also increases the positive interaction between the older and younger kids," Harshaw said.

The high school students enjoy being local celebrities. "My little brother is in the elementary school, and he says all his friends want my card," said Bob Brown, a senior in his second year of the program. "I like having little kids look up to me." Brown plays football, basketball, and baseball, and said he earns mostly A's and B's.

"I think it's an honor to be recognized and have other students look up to you," added Jim DiFalco, a junior who is on a card for the first time this year. Besides playing football, baseball, and tennis, he also is on the prom committee and in the drama club. When DiFalco has lunch with a younger student, he plans to ask him or her about school activities and interests. "I'm going to talk to them as a friend."


The school staff hopes the program will continue to motivate both the older and the younger students.

"It helps you get good grades, because you want those cards," Mariam Gonzalez, 13, told Education World. She had earned three cards by the end of February and hopes someday to be passing out her own trading cards to younger students. "I would like to be on a trading card and represent the high school."

DiFalco said the program keeps high school students focused as well. "It helps keep the high school kids on track, gives them confidence, and makes you look good for the teachers and colleges."

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
Copyright © 2006 Education World