By Jamie Leary

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Images of animals struggling in the wake of the Australian bush fires has triggered an international response. For one group of elementary school students from Westminster, the images were so impactful, they decided they had no choice but to act.

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“A bunch of people in our class are starting to take charge and this? It’s the whole school. Like, when we presented Quarters for Koalas we had girls and boys in rooms crying. Balling their eyes out,” said Chaz Trujillo.

Trujillo, a 5th grader at Hodgkins Leadership Academy, was in class when his teacher showed him coverage of the fires. It’s where the idea of Quarters for Koalas began. That was last Thursday. By Monday the Westminster School Board was asking the students to present their idea at Tuesday’s meeting.

“How do you feel about that? That has to be kind of nerve-wracking!” asked CBS4’s Jamie Leary.

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“It’s kind of scary, but it’s not as scary as doing this news broadcast right now,” said Trujillo.

Trujillo, part of the student council, presented to the rest of the student body leaders who didn’t immediately approve the proposal.

“We needed facts first. How many animals are dying? What’s happening?” said Gulioni Maldonado, student body president and a 6th grader at Hodgkins Leadership Academy.

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They quickly learned that more than one billion animals have been injured or killed over the last several months. Then, Quarters for Koalas was put into motion.

“It hurts your heart to see animals in an environment like that,” said Maldonado.

It was a lot of work to get their mission in motion. Trujillo pointed out that he has a great team behind him. In addition to Trujillo and Maldonado, four others have been key.

He describes 6th grader Maricruz Pena as the tech expert behind their efforts. Ruby McBride, also student body president, helps keep order. Trujillo says Krissa Chavez has a great voice and helps with the public relations side of things. Student body Treasurer Luis Dominguez, Trujillo says is quiet, but has a big heart.

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Tuesday night, the six students stood up in a crowded room in front of the school board to show them what Quarters for Koalas is all about.

“I hope that they hear that since we’re in a leadership academy, that we’re all leaders that are trying to take charge and trying to pursue this problem and hopefully that will make this world a better place,” said Trujillo.

Not only was their message heard loud and clear, their presentation was followed by applause by the board, followed by lots of donations.

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Trujillo couldn’t put a number to what he hoped to raise, but he knows it’s a lot.

“The goal is to raise probably like in the thousands,” Trujillo said. “We want to get a lot of money so a lot more animals can be helped to get back on their feet and get back into their habitat.”

There is no GoFundMe page, simply a box. Each classroom at Hodgkins Leadership Academy is now equipped with a donation box. If you would like to help, you don’t have to have a tie to the school. Officials say the front office has a box for anyone who would like to drop by and help the cause.

Hodgkins Leadership Academy
3475 W 67th Ave, Denver, CO 80221

Jamie Leary


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