Story Collected by Phoenix Chen

I am going to be late! I am so going to be late! That was the only thought running across my mind as I ran up six flights of stairs to my first period physics class. By the time I reached the sixth floor, I was out of breath and drenched in sweat. I felt light-headed as I walked quickly through the half-empty hallway with a mix of exhaustion and fear twisted inside my stomach. It was only the third day of school, and I was going to be late for class, again. I could see myself spending the rest of my freshman year, stuck inside a windowless classroom, serving detention after detention. When I turned a corner, I saw my physics teacher standing by the door to the classroom. Ms. Kovacs was wearing a t-shirt with WE ADD UP printed in the middle. Each word had its own row, and there was an addition sign to the left of UP. Underneath the words, there was a line and a number beneath it. The message on my teacher’s shirt didn’t make sense to me. Letters certainly could not be added up to numbers. When asked about her shirt, Ms. Kovacs couldn’t tell me much about the meaning behind its message. She said that she bought the shirt from the environmental club and was simply wearing it to support the club.

Several days later, I attended one of the environmental club’s weekly meetings, seeking for answers to my question about the WE ADD UP t-shirt. After discovering that the t-shirts were made out of 100% organic cotton and each had a nonrepeating number printed on the front, I pulled out a $20 bill and asked the club members if I could purchase a shirt. Unfortunately, they sold the t-shirts as a fundraising event two years ago, and all of the t-shirts were sold out. Although I didn’t get to buy a shirt, I got the chance to learn more about the environmental club and its missions on promoting environmental-friendly practices in the school. I became interested in the club’s cause and ended up joining it.

Three years later, the environmental club ran out of ideas for fundraising. As the vice-president of the club, I searched through a box of old fundraising materials and came across a WE ADD UP t-shirt brochure. I thought it would be a good idea to partner up with the WE ADD UP Company again and sell its t-shirts to fundraise for the club. After getting the approval from the club sponsor, I discussed the fundraising opportunity with the club members and brought it to action. For weeks, all the club members and I went around the school advertising the WE ADD UP t-shirts and convincing students as well as faculty members to buy them. We recorded people’s orders on charts and kept track of those who rejected the offer as well as those who donated to the club instead of purchasing a shirt.

It took a lot of patience and organization to make the fundraising project successful. The environmental club ended up receiving only 5% of the profit made by the WE ADD UP Company for our shirt orders. This was an extremely small amount of money. However, in the end, knowledge was more important than money. Through the fundraising event, the environmental club and I were able to inform more than half of the school population about our club and our missions in engaging students with environmental-friendly practices. We were making a difference simply by promoting the WE ADD UP t-shirts while making the school community aware of our green actions. We made a larger difference when we got students and faculty members to support our club or convinced them to purchase WE ADD UP t-shirt(s). We proved truth of an inspirational quote: “No one can do everything. Everyone can do something.” Whether it was promoting the WE ADD UP t-shirts, starting a conversation about environmental-friendly practices with strangers, or recycling paper, the environmental club was doing ‘something’ to make a difference in the school. Everyone is capable of doing something to make a difference in the world, no matter how small this difference may be.