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Swipe for Schools

Article Published: Nov. 25, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Swipe for Schools

Spencer Schlenker

The little plastic rewards cards issued by grocery stores are good for more than just saving a few bucks at the register.

Cards issued by Harris Teeter, Ingles and Food Lion can be linked to a specific Watauga County school, so that each time a store-brand item is purchased, a donation is made by the store to a school.

But up until recently, each card had to be "re-linked" to an institution at the start of each school year. Naturally, some people forgot to take this step until after several grocery trips in the new session, and precious funds that benefit many different programs at local schools were lost.

This gave Watauga High School freshman Spencer Schlenker an idea. He has created the Swipe for Schools program to capture those dollars that the schools were missing out on. Through the program's website,, grocery store customers can link their rewards cards to the school of their choosing one time, and by using their WHS-issued laptops and software provided by the stores, Schlenker and a group of other student volunteers can automate the process, so that when the renewal period arrives, the customer's card is automatically re-linked back to the schools.
Schlenker will also be setting up a table in front of local participating grocery stores to scan customer's cards into the system. The Swipe for Schools Facebook page has information on the upcoming dates and times that he will be running the program at the stores.

The money that is donated through the program comes at no cost to the consumer, Schlenker said.

"Every time you make a purchase, a little bit of that purchase is donated to a local school," he said. "It doesn't come out of your pocket, and it doesn't change your discount."

The program is already in place, and Schlenker said he has plans to expand it in the future.

"Harris Teeter and Food Lion allow you to donate to both a school and a charity," he said. "Right now, we're just donating to the schools, but each grocery store has a maximum donation. If we're ever maxed out in one of those funds, we can start spilling that over to a charity like the Hospitality House."

The funds from the program are deposited into the school's discretionary fund, to assist the many different programs at the institution that may need an extra cash boost.

Schlenker grew up in Raleigh, where his parents owned a small business, before moving to Boone in the seventh grade. He said he hopes to attend an Ivy League school after graduating from WHS.

For more information or to participate in the program, visit, or search the Swipe for Schools Facebook page.

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