Being a cut above the rest is helping Neligh-Oakdale cash in with the Box Tops in Education program.
The Antelope County elementary school has collected more Box Tops this year than any other school in the state and is 49th in the nation. At 10 cents each, that equals $3,100 for the district.
Tina Wilson, administrative assistant at PK-2 West Ward, couldn’t hide her excitement Tuesday as she smiled from ear to ear when talking about the success of the program.
“It blows my mind to see how many Box Tops we’ve collected. That’s 31,000 Box Tops,” Wilson said. “At 10 cents a pop, that really ads up.”
Box Tops are coupons found on various products, from Kleenex brand tissues to General Mills cereal. Although Box Tops have been around since 1996, Wilson said many people don’t bother to clip the coupon.
Neligh-Oakdale’s lower elementary struggled to bring many in — until this year. That’s partly because Wilson and first-grade teacher Kristen Strom brainstormed ways to cash in on the free money.
“We talked over the summer about how to get more Box Tops because last year we had very little turned in,” Wilson said. “Mrs. Strom suggested classroom competitions, and we decided to make it even better with prizes and other fun stuff.”
While preschool has its own prizes, those in grades K-2 compete for monthly honors. With two classes per grade, that’s six classes vying for prizes like 20 minutes of extra recess, rootbeer float party, hot cocoa party and an ice cream sundae party. Wilson and several other staff collect the Box Tops weekly and have a board in the multi-purpose room charting the status.
Laura Larsen’s first-grade class was the first winner of the year and has already been a double winner. She said her students have enjoyed the incentives and are eager to bring in more Box Tops, which do have an expiration date. Wilson said that’s why it’s important for people to turn them in regularly.
East Ward (3-6) also is collecting Box Tops. Neligh-Oakdale total number includes both locations. Denise Gunderson and Becky Kerkman are heavily involved in the East Ward division of the collection.
But coupon clipping doesn’t stop with Box Tops. Best Choice, the store brand of all of the Antelope County grocery stores, also has a similar program. Wilson said every UPC barcode turned in equals three cents for schools. Wilson said every Best Choice bottle of water, package of cheese, milk and many more items all can be turned in for three cents each with the UPC code clipped.
And if people don’t clip the UPCs? “You are literally throwing away money,” Wilson said. “What does it hurt to cash them in and give them to the kids.”
Wilson said the money Neligh-Oakdale receives from Box Tops goes into its elementary fund and goes toward field trips and various extra activities. She said there isn’t a goal as to how many Box Tops they collect, although they have a new goal now that they know what being No. 1 in Nebraska feels like.
“The goal is to stay in first place,” Wilson said with a laugh. “Being first in the state is cool, but to be 49th in the nation out of almost 100,000 schools is incredible. Who would have thought?”