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StarBulletin.com

Consumers buy, schools gain


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POSTED: Friday, June 12, 2009

Kapolei High School could get an extra $15,000 to $30,000 in the next school year just by having students and supporters go shopping.

That's why Principal Al Nagasako was the first to sign up his school for a new program, called Learning Point Rewards, which allows his students and their families to get back a percentage of their everyday spending to help their school.

“;It's a win-win situation,”; said Nagasako, who plans to spend the extra money for technology upgrades for about 2,200 students.

“;It gives us the opportunity to patronize the vendors who are always helping us—their outreach has just been fabulous. It's not just (our) getting the money; it's giving back, sustaining the community,”; he said.

The program is a year-round “;perpetual fundraiser”; that closes a funding gap at a time of deep cuts in school budgets, and benefits local retailers during the economic downturn, said Chris McMahon, spokesman of Learning Point.

Hawaii is the third state to use the program since it was developed last year by Utah-based CreditBack Inc., he said.

More than 240 local merchants—like Pizza Hut, Times Super Markets and McCully Bike and Sporting Goods—will participate in the program with the approval of the state Department of Education, he said.

Depending on the merchant, an average of 1 percent of purchases will be donated to the school, added McMahon, who is former director of sales and membership programs for Oahu Publications Inc., publisher of the Star-Bulletin and MidWeek.

All but 12 of Oahu's nearly 200 public schools are participating. Free membership cards have been distributed, and the program will start when school does in late July, he said. Students are allowed to enroll as many family members as they wish.

Parents, relatives and any supporters can go online to register at www.learningpointrewards.com and designate the school of choice. Also, the student (or card holder) can earn points toward an online catalog of about 1,000 popular online merchants, he said. The points can be passed on to family members, and the reward items are shipped free to Hawaii.

Kahaluu Elementary, which has 251 students, would earn at least $3,000 annually, based on conservative estimates, said McMahon.

Kahaluu Principal Naomi Matsuzaki said she signed up for the program because “;it will help provide many things for the students we are not able to provide with regular funding from the state.”;

Because the community is not affluent, she recently purchased jump ropes as a cost-effective way to help her students meet new physical fitness guidelines, Matsuzaki said. She would use the extra money to buy new sports equipment, like mobile basketball hoops, volleyball nets and balls of all kinds.

“;Some parents have already asked for second cards for relatives, so that's very encouraging,”; she added.