Amery, Wis. (WQOW) -- 996.9 mile separate two towns in the United States bearing very similar names -- Amery, Wisconsin and Amory, Mississippi. Despite that distance, a bond is growing between the communities thanks to a unique project started by a 5th grade class.
What's in a name? That was the question posed to 5th grade students in Amery, tasked with learning more from another Amory, in Mississippi.
Early on, right away, we sent friendly letters to their city administrators. And we got letters back. It was really cool. Kids were excited and that kind of led to more and more," said Michael Simonson, a 5th grade teacher at the Amery Intermediate School.
Despite being halfway across the country, the students found the two towns bearing similar names shared a lot of other similarities.
"They were founded the same year as us, 1887. They were also founded by railroads, as we were," says Haley Pulkrabek, an Amery 5th grade student.
The project has not only taught students about life outside their borders, but also sparked a new love of learning.
"I like it, because we can do more than just read in a book about it," says Wyatt Ingham, an Amery 5th grade student.
"I definitely see a difference," added Simonson. "It's just made it real. It's made it life learning."
Tuesday, students held a teleconference with city leaders in Amory, MS. It was the first face-to-face meeting since the project launched. Students were able to ask questions and get a small tour of the town.
Simonson says what started as a simple research project has turned into so much more. He credits his students with starting the effort.
"It really grew way more than we thought," says Simonson.
Students designed and sold 220 t-shirts, raising a total of $44,770. After they pay for printing fees, the remainder of the profits will be donated to police programs in both communities. Also this week, a food drive kicked off with the proceeds going to an Amory, MS food bank.
"The kids excitement for the project and the support of the community. That's why this project has gotten so big," says Simonson.
This weekend, Simonson and his family will pack up their car with those donations for an in-person delivery to Mississippi. It's a new friendship sparked by some curious kids.
"They are kind of the root of that tree that's going to grow into a really nice connection between our two Amery's," says Simonson.
The class already has a new goal to strengthen the Amery/Amory bond. They are lobbying leaders from both cities in hopes of officially being labeled -- sister cities.