ASHEBORO, N.C. - The Asheboro High School Zoo School, in partnership with the North Carolina Zoo Society, is kicking off a penny drive to raise funds for "Project: Polar Bears," an effort to raise funds to expand the North Carolina Zoo's Polar Bear exhibit.

The "Pennies for Polar Bears" project enlists the help of area elementary students from Randolph County and Asheboro City Schools. Each school voluntarily decided to participate to raise money for one month beginning in October.

The class from each participating school that raises the most money will receive an ice cream party. The overall classroom winner out of all participating schools will receive a behind-the-scenes tour of select locations at the zoo. Winners will be announced by early December.

Through mid-October, 11 elementary schools and 3 pre-schools have committed to raising money for "Pennies for Polar Bears." Balfour Elementary had their first pick up on October 23. Students brought in 6,012 pennies, 49 nickels, 83 dimes, 15 quarters and a silver dollar, all totaling $75.62.

"As a student at the Asheboro High School Zoo School, I have come to see the North Carolina Zoo as one of my classrooms," said Morgan Tedder, a senior at the Asheboro High School Zoo School and organizer of ‘Pennies for Polar Bears.' "Being able to not only contribute to, but lead a fundraiser that will help to improve the zoo is one of the most powerful ways for me to thank the zoo for contributing to my educational career."

"Being able to take part in ‘Pennies for Polar Bears' with the Zoo Society has taught me that even though I am young I can still help out in a large way," Tedder added. "It has allowed me to leave high school knowing that I made an attempt to leave things better than they were when I found them."

The North Carolina Zoological Society is a 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; Bev. E. Perdue, Governor.