ELK COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Students of Saint Marys Area School District received a special surprise to help spread positivity through something as simple as coins.
These coins are known as THE SMILE COIN. All throughout the week, Elk County artist, John Schlimm, students from Dutch Manufacturing, and the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties have been traveling through the school district giving presentations on what the coin is and how it was made.
THE SMILE COIN was inspired by Schlimm’s participatory art mural project, THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours), which has been installed across the country. The new project to create the coins became a manufacturing, design, art, and educational collaboration between Schlimm, St. Marys Area High School’s Dutch Manufacturing students, and the Community Education Center of Elk and Cameron Counties.
Embodying the essence of STEAM (science/technology/engineering/arts/math,) THE SMILE COIN emphasizes the importance of community service and the mental health impact of even the simplest gestures of compassion, such as a smile.
The coin was released on the eve of the 10th Anniversary of THE SMILE THAT CHANGED THE WORLD (is yours), and a limited edition of 4,000 SMILE COINS were produced.
Each student in the St. Marys Area School District received two coins, a smile to keep and a smile to give away.
The project began in January of 2022 when Schlimm walked into the classroom and drew a simple smile. Using technology, students were able to take the drawing, add a few features and the final product was complete.
“I came in as an artist. They came with their science and technology and math and engineering experience, and we came together and worked really hard,” Schlimm said.
THE SMILE COIN aims to help those who are battling with mental health issues or just having a bad day.
“It just really does focus on making everybody around you happy and making yourself happy,” Senior Dillon Kuhns said.
“Get a smile, give a smile. This really made me come through with this and realize, hey, I can help somebody,” Senior Gordon Beck said.
Schlimm said the collaboration of the three groups was what made this possible. In a week they were able to distribute 4,000 coins during 15 assemblies to 1800 students.
And this is just the beginning. Students hope that the younger generation will keep with them and inspire them to keep the effort going in the future.
“They can be in our shoes as we are today. You know, they can come together, do this project like we did, and make somebody smile,” Beck said.
Manufactured by Metco Industries, THE SMILE COIN was made possible by a generous Powder Metal Initiative mini-grant through Penn State DuBois. Likewise, Gerg Tool & Die made the tools for the project and lon Technologies did the coating.