Angelina Pham and Dakota Wright organized a Dec. 5 fundraising event at Baskin Robbins.

TIMES PHOTO: BLAIR STENVICK - Dakota Wright and Angelina Pham pose next to a flier they created for a fundraiser benefitting homeless students at Elmonica Elementary School.Elmonica Elementary School fifth-graders Angelina Pham and Dakota Wright seem to do almost everything together. The pair wear matching beaded bracelets and necklaces. They voluntarily spend their daily recesses helping out in the school's kindergarten classroom. And now, they're working together to plan a fundraiser for Elmonica homeless students.

From 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, the Baskin Robbins at Peterkort Towne Square (10910 S.W. Barnes Road, Portland) will serve each scoop at a discounted price. Customers can choose to pay the difference, and that amount will go toward purchasing warm socks, blankets and other winter necessities for Elmonica's homeless student population.

The idea came to Pham and Wright when their principal, Cynthia Moffett, took them out for ice cream at Baskin Robbins as thanks for their hard work volunteering in the kindergarten classroom. The owner happened to be there, and he told them that if they ever wanted to hold a fundraiser there, they would be welcome.

The fifth-grade girls immediately knew that they wanted to raise funds for homeless students.

"Our teacher read us this book called 'How to Steal a Dog' (by Barbara O'Connor) and it had a homeless girl in it," Pham said. "It made us really sad. She told us that there were homeless kids in our school, and we wanted to help them."

The Beaverton School District has about 1,500 reported homeless students (see story, Page A1). Some of those students do attend Elmonica, and they receive help from the district's Homeless Education Liaison Center. But those students represent just the tip of the iceberg, Moffett said. The principal said that a "couple dozen" Elmonica families are "doubling up."

"They're bunking with a grandma or aunt or somebody, but they haven't reported themselves as being homeless," she said. "But we know they don't have a consistent place to live, so we're tracking those families as well. They have a place to sleep at night, but they don't necessarily have a home that's their own. And with it being almost winter, we want everyone to have a warm something."

In "How to Steal a Dog," the protagonist is a young girl whose family is evicted from their apartment and must live in their car. The book made an impact on both Pham and Wright.

"If I had to live in a car and had to go through what she had to go through, I think that would be really hard," Wright said. "And if it was cold out, that would be even harder."

Moffett said that, aside from sending one email to the Baskin Robbins location owner, she hasn't had to do anything to organize or publicize the fundraiser. Pham and Wright are taking care of it.

"All of it's been them," Moffett said. "The girls have been talking it up in classrooms, they made fliers and they asked their parents to put them up at their work. They're really trying to get the word out."

Pham and Wright said they both hope to make a career out of helping people. Pham wants to be a family doctor, and Wright said she plans to work for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, because "there are kids and people that have cancer, and they need help getting through it."

For Moffett, seeing her students take an interest in helping others "feels better than any test score can make us feel."

Pham and Wright will be at Baskin Robbins Tuesday evening. And, naturally, they both plan to get the same ice cream flavor: cookies n' cream.

Blair Stenvick
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