Students at Munger Mountain Elementary School have performed an alchemy experiment more valuable than turning base metals into gold.

They have transmogrified apples into books.

For the past 18 years, Teton County School District No. 1 students have sold apples each fall and donated the proceeds to charity, and the tradition has continued for the fifth graders at each school even after Munger was built. The sale, or rather the bestowing of its proceeds, was the reason Munger’s fifth graders were gathered Friday in the school’s library.

“How many of you have bought a box of apples in Teton County in the past 18 years?” teacher Wendy Hultman asked students.

A good chunk of students raised their hands, but many looked around at each other, as if to ask, “Have I?” On the other hand, almost every single parent and teacher who had shown up for the presentation raised a hand.

Wood told the students the apple sale started all those years ago at Colter Elementary School as a way to teach students about giving back to their community and to “those who have less and are in need.” Munger students chose an international project to be the recipient of this year’s funds, a children’s library in San Simeon, a town in Tlaxcala, Mexico.

San Simeon is intrinsically tied to Jackson. A majority of Mexican immigrants who settle here have family in the Tlaxcalan town, and last year a group that includes many immigrants from the area took up the mantle of creating a children’s library there.

A contingent of the group’s leaders attended Friday’s event to receive the money, presented in the form of a giant check made by Munger students in the vein of Publisher’s Clearing House.

“When I did my fundraising plan, I never thought about kids fundraising,” Lety Liera told the students. “I swear I did not cry in any of my other fundraising meetings.”

Liera and her compatriots accepted $5,000 from the Munger students, a sizeable chunk of the $30,000 they needed to raise. She told the kids that their donation, along with the help of another donor, had helped the group reach its goal, which includes enough funding to staff the library for five years.

The library, which will be part of a system of small libraries in Mexico called “Abra Palabra,” or open word, is set to debut April 30.

“That is Dia de Los Ninos,” Liera said, or Children’s Day, a celebration of kids, families and books.

Like classes at Munger, the event alternated between English and Spanish, showcasing the results of dual immersion instruction. In presenting the check, Munger students Olivia Chambers, Ruby Hoelscher, Mario Juarez Perez and Sara Martinez Carmona made remarks, two of them speaking in English and two in Spanish.

In a room filled with books in both languages, the students spoke about educational equity and wanting to provide Mexican children the same chance they have had to grow up as readers.

“Every kid should have the privilege to read,” Olivia said, “and have the opportunity that we’ve had so they can have good careers and good education.”

When the speeches were over, counselor Jose Reyes and librarian Melissa Snider read the book “Dreamers,” Snider reciting the English version while Reyes read the Spanish-language edition, called “Sonadores.” Then kids and parents mingled with teachers, who poured hot cocoa and handed out homemade churros from big aluminum trays.

Argentine author Jose Luis Borges once wrote, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library.”

For one small town in Tlaxcala, paradise is, in part, made from apples.

This article has been updated to show that Wendy Hultman spoke with the students during the presentation. — Ed.

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Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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