ASHEBORO, NC - The Asheboro High School Zoo School, in partnership with the North Carolina Zoological Society, is kicking off a penny drive to raise funds for "Project: Polar Bears," to expand the North Carolina Zoo's Polar Bear Exhibit. The kick-off will be held at the Polar Bear Exhibit on Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 11 a.m.

The "Pennies for Polar Bears" project enlists the help of students from all North Carolina Elementary Schools. Each school voluntarily decides to participate to raise money for one month beginning Oct. 1.

The overall classroom winner out of all participating schools will receive: a behind-the-scenes tour at the N.C. Zoo; lunch, courtesy of Chili's of Asheboro; transportation to the zoo, courtesy of Royal Tours (mileage restrictions apply); and free "Happy Meal" coupons, courtesy of McDonald's. The class from each participating school that raises the most money will also receive free "Happy Meal" coupons for each student in the class. The winners will be announced Dec. 1.

Through mid-September, 38 elementary schools in 26 North Carolina counties have committed to raising money for "Pennies for Polar Bears."

"Being a student at Zoo School has opened doors to opportunities I had never imagined," said Brittany Salers, a senior at Asheboro High's Zoo School and coordinator of the pennies campaign. "Having the opportunity to positively affect the N.C. Zoo with ‘Pennies for Polar Bears' is a privilege I am honored to have."

The N.C. Zoological Society is the private non-profit organization that supports the North Carolina Zoo and conservation. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Dee A. Freeman, Secretary; Beverly E. Perdue, Governor.