Cans for College

Logo Shape
On a sunny day, 5 year old and 9 year old siblings are working together to collect bottles and cans and pour them from a grocery bag into a BottleDrop Green Bag.

The Branams

Ceci and Eli are siblings who live in the Portland area. They’ve grown up listening to their parents talk about many things, including the importance of hard work and saving for the future. But, at just 9 and 5 years old, their options for earning money are a bit limited. Their family started looking for fun, accessible ways to teach Ceci and Eli the value of a dollar, or in BottleDrop terms, 10 beverage containers.

Their dad, John, recently paid off his student loans after 25 years. After celebrating this milestone together as a family, he thought it would be fun to help his kids learn about working and saving for the future.

Enter BottleDrop and the Oregon State Treasury. Their partnership for the Oregon College Savings Plan makes it easy to save for future education costs with funds from bottle and can returns. The Branams learned about this partnership and thought it might be the perfect project for his family.

Dimes Earned and Lessons Learned

The Branam family formed a plan and quickly got to work. They have already learned many lessons along the way.

They learned about marketing as they created a flier to promote their efforts to their friends and neighbors. And their marketing efforts paid off! What started as a single-family effort now involves 20 families – all working together to help support Ceci and Eli’s futures.

They learned about work ethic and the importance of community. Every other weekend, their family collects containers from the families that donate to them. John said “One thing that is really important to our family is building community. Particularly during COVID, we all need safe opportunities to still stay connected with one another. All the neighbors participating are delighted by the idea that our children are practicing small examples of work ethic at young ages and that they’re starting to think about college when they are so young. It builds a sense of community – the ‘it takes a village’ spirit. It has really been lovely and wonderful. The kids feel that extra layer of love. You just can’t beat that. Particularly during a pandemic.”

They sharpened their customer service skills by expressing their appreciation for contributions or patience and understanding when a family needed to reschedule their pickup.

They learned about math and how to apply it to real-world situations. “Our kids are falling in love with math. This is a fun-straight forward way to apply different math concepts that they’re learning in school. For Eli, it’s learning to count to 100 and counting by 10s. For Ceci, we do more predictive modeling to see how much we might save in a month. They can see great examples of how we use real math in the real world. And then that gets them excited, not only about math, but it also starts to connect the dots between how money can grow over time and then be applied to something meaningful we’re saving for – like college.”

They learned to be proud of their efforts, despite the hard work. Ceci said, “I feel kind of good to be helping with my college savings account. It seems to be going pretty well. Sometimes I don’t want to do it, but overall it’s enjoyable to go around with my brother and dad to collect cans.” Eli agreed, “It’s fun, but it’s also hard work. I like taking Franics (our dog) with us.”

It All Adds Up

They created an account in early December 2020. In their first year, the Branams raised nearly $2,300!

But John says the experience has been invaluable. “The things that we love about this effort and that really motivate us are two-fold. Number 1, it gives us a fun and natural way to talk to our kids about the value of college and saving for the future. Number 2, it gives them a way to start building their practice of doing a little bit of work and seeing the results of that work. It’s less about how much money did we collect, it’s more about the conversations and creating good habits.”

How can my family get started?

Start saving for future education costs with BottleDrop and the Oregon College Savings Plan.