For many people, the tops of General Mills and Betty Crocker boxed items may just be another piece of cardboard to throw away.
To Judy Clausen, the tops represent a means of helping out the Alta music department in future years.
Clausen, an elementary music instructor at Alta, is the head of the school's Box Tops for Education Program, a project designed by General Mills and Betty Crocker to help schools obtain needed materials in classrooms across the country.
The goal for the Alta version of the project is to collect 5,000 box tops by the end of March to be used toward the purchase of a video camera for the music department, and Clausen said she thought it was a great avenue of revenue for the music branch of the school.
"It's a wonderful way to get money for extra items that you wouldn't normally be able to include in your budget," Clausen said. "It's a very good program that's very well accepted across the nation, and I'm glad we're doing it here. It's proving to be very worthwhile."
Each General Mills and Betty Crocker box top is worth 10 cents, and the items, each roughly the size of a stamp, can be found on the top label of General Mills and Betty Crocker products. The label, which has "box tops" in white and "for education" in a sharpened pencil, replaces the old logo, which had "for education" in a ruler.
After cutting out the tops, students bring them to school and place them in boxes located in each classroom, and they are then given to Clausen, who sorts them out and sends them back to the companies, who then reimburse the school per top.
While many citizens might overlook the cardboard cutouts due to their the small size, Clausen said they shouldn't be taken for granted.
"It's really free money, because normally you would just throw away the box when you're done with it," Clausen said. "I think of it as just emptying your piggy bank if you just throw away the box without cutting off the top, because it's really 10 cents that you would be throwing away each time. If you have enough boxes, that total starts to add up pretty quickly."
Clausen, who teaches general music to kindergarten through fourth grade students and band to fifth and sixth grade pupils, first became aware of the box tops program while student teaching in Oklahoma.
After arriving in the Alta School District two years ago, she remembered how successful the program had been in the Sooner State, and immediately decided to become the lead organizer of the project in order to help the music department.
While the technology division at Alta collected pink receipts from Hy-Vee and the entire school saved Campbell's products, the music department did not have such a program to benefit it directly, and Clausen decided to institute the box tops for education project as a way to supplement the money the music program receives annually from both the school budget and the music boosters club.
"The music boosters club doesn't make as much as the athletic boosters club, and the annual music smorgasbord that we have is used for music sheets, music stands and other necessary items like that," Clausen said. "We saw that we didn't have a real good video camera, and we thought that if we could raise enough money from this, then we could buy a better camera that everyone in the music department here in Alta could use to tape concerts, lessons and rehearsals."
The project netted 1,334 box tops before school was let out in May, and the current total raised by the students of Alta is just over 2,300.
Clausen hopes to see the pupils raise an additional 2,700 tops over the next few months in order to be able to use the camera at the K-4 Spring Concert on April 17.
"If we raise enough before spring, I hope to have the video camera in before our spring concert," Clausen said. "That would be great if we could have it in time for that, because we could then tape that concert and show the students that their efforts have paid off."
Clausen said students are not the only people who can help the music department through this program. The elementary school has placed a collecting bin in the front lobby of the building for members of the community to donate their tops.
She said the public is more than welcome to help the students try to reach the magic number of 5,000.
"Right now we have already made what we made all of last year," Clausen said, "so that's really encouraging. It's great to see that all of the kids are really getting into it, and if the public can help us out as well, I think we'll be able to make our goal."