PORT ORCHARD, Wash. -- Orchard Heights Elementary students have raised more than $20,000 for school playground equipment and buildings in need of repair. The effort has turned around years of dismal test scores and bad attendance at the Port Orchard elementary school.

There was a lot of discipline, I spent most of my day sorting out who did what, said Nancy Pack, principal.

School administrators decided the best way to overcome the problem was for students to take ownership in the school. Student government members engaged all 550 students to take part in this effort. As a result, behavior became better, absences dropped from 25% to 2% and students developed pride in their school.

It helps our school have better things so we can have better education and have more fun at school, said Collin Wolfe, 5th grader.

The improvements have developed a new culture of learning on campus. Orchard Heights is a top 10 percent improving Washington school and was named a School Of Distinction.

Students say looking at life s bigger picture sets them up for future success.

It s also having that passion and desire to be a great human being, said Pack.

Several community groups including the SEABEE s from NACSAC NW helped with the installation of the playground equipment.

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