According to the Florida Specialty License Plates website, over $500 million has been raised for various causes since 1986.  These causes include protection of various sea life, raising awareness of different diseases, and promoting historical landmarks like Florida's lighthouses. This year, thanks to Santa Rosa County Tax Collector Stan Nichols, Santa Rosa County fifth graders help add art education to those causes.


Inspired by the Polk County Tag Art program, Nichols found an opportunity to raise money for elementary school art courses through creative means by employing the very demographic the program was designed to help.  The students also have the chance to see their creations out in the public.


Fifth grade students of every participating school have the opportunity to draw, to color, to somehow fill a canvas of a license plate template, which parents can then buy for $15 as a unique vanity tag in PVC plastic.  The order form going home to parents also lists two (1" by 2") key fobs as part of the $15 cost.  Less a $7 printing fee, the schools receive 100 percent of the proceeds.


Toni New, district art coordinator, and Kelley Igo, art teacher at East Milton Elementary School, sat in the art room at Rhode's Elementary School diligently stuffing the packets to go home to parents about the program.  In them, a letter from Nichols said sponsors helped raise over $14,000 for art classrooms. 


New said each participating school received $1,000 thanks to Nichols' efforts with the sponsors.  Igo said her students were most thrilled about the competition.  After March 25, every school will pick five entries.  New said Nichols will select the top two from those five to be included in Awards of Distinction, a touring exhibit on display at various Santa Rosa County events and locations.  These winning tags will be available for $28 through the rest of 2014.

Igo said, "Kids love winning."  She said her students were excited this contest allowed only other fifth graders to participate.  Not only did the contest limit contestants to the specific grade, but students in every participating school have two chances to be included in the "Awards of Distinction." 


New said although this contest was written for elementary schools only, middle and high school students were interested in competing as well.

Igo said her students were also looking forward to seeing their artwork on other cars on the road.  New said, "It empowers kids.  It's important."