Four California high school students are helping children color their way through the coronavirus pandemic.
Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza and Erin Rogers teamed up on an economics class capstone project at the end of their freshman year at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.
The students, all 15 years old, developed a business plan to publish a coronavirus-themed coloring book for children that would raise money for charity. But instead of stopping there, the four used their plan to create Be The Change Coloring Co. to publish the “COVID Coloring Book.”
“It was supposed to be just a plan and we were supposed to just go through the motions of marketing and figuring out business analysis since it was for economics. And we actually went through with it and we made the actual book and it’s a real business now and that was the crazy part,” Hong told CNN.
Jeff Montooth teaches Advanced Placement government and economics classes at the school in Long Beach, California. Typically, he said he asks his students to develop a business plan that solves an environmental problem.
“This year, due to the lockdowns and quarantine, I decided to broaden the scope of the project to include charity businesses as well,” Montooth told CNN. “I wanted to make the project as relevant as possible and allow kids the opportunity to create something real and give back to their community. I also had to be flexible because my students were all dealing with a variety of different challenges and to try to continue with business as usual didn’t make sense.”
The 28-page coloring book features characters Al E. Gator, Wally the Narwhal and Sam the Snail. The characters explain the do’s and don’ts for staying safe during the pandemic, including how to properly wash your hands. The book even comes with a face mask.
“The coloring book gives kids the information without totally overloading them,” Matlock said.
The book costs $5 and 40% of the price is donated to charity. Buyers can choose from a list of suggested charities or write in their own. To date, Be The Change Coloring Co. has sold nearly 2,000 books.
“I am very proud of them and as a teacher this is the ultimate goal,” Montooth said. “I hope that this project can serve as a model for what we can be doing during this time that continues to help students be creative and work toward goals that are relevant and meaningful.”
The four students say they couldn’t have published the coloring book without Montooth’s help, or without working as a team.
“Lauryn starts writing the books and then we start making the drawings, which is where Sofia and Ella come in. So, they make the drawings and activities for the coloring books and then after they’re all finished with those, I import the photos into Photoshop to combine the words and photos to make the pages,” Rogers said.
The four friends are already working on a second book, “Stand Up for Your-Shell-ves,” which tackles teaching children about racism and discrimination with the help of Sam the Snail.
To see what the budding authors, illustrators and publishers do for their third and fourth coloring books, visit the company’s Instagram page.