They’re providing a bit of color to a dark pandemic.

By Hana Hong
July 23, 2020
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Talking to your kids about world issues is a tough topic to tackle—especially when that world issue is a raging pandemic (something that confuses even adults). The conversation has become so prevalent that the CDC offered a list of suggestions, which includes remaining calm and reassuring children about their safety, to help parents teach kids about the novel coronavirus.

15-year-old freshmen Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza, and Erin Rogers, founders of Be The Change Coloring Co.
Be the Change Coloring Co.

A group of high school students at Long Beach Polytechnic High in California decided to make the learning lesson a little more entertaining. When they were tasked with creating a theoretical business plan for a capstone project in their economics class, 15-year-old freshmen Lauryn Hong, Ella Matlock, Sofia Migliazza, and Erin Rogers hatched the idea for a coronavirus-themed coloring book. 

Although students are typically asked to solve an environmental problem for the class assignment, they decided to shift their attention to educating young children in light of the pandemic.

The final result was a 28-page book that breaks down the basics of the disease in simple language with various activities like Tic-Tac-Toe, Mad Libs, and mazes. They also developed three characters—Al E. Gator, Wally the Narwhal, and Sam the Snail—to walk the kids through safe habits and fun activities during quarantine. The hands-on activity provides kids with advice for staying safe during the pandemic, including the importance of hand-washing, social distancing, and staying at home.

In the first month alone, the girls sold hundreds of copies and raised more than $1,000 for various charities, including ones focused on coronavirus relief. “When we finally finished our book, we assumed that we’d only sell 25, but our first order was over 450 books. After the success of our first book, we all agreed that we wanted to continue,” the students said.

With that, their theoretical business plan became a real one—and Be The Change Coloring Co. was born. 

“To us, it really became more than a school project when our AP environmental science teacher, Mr. Manack, and our economics teacher, Mr. Montooth, told us, ‘This is going to be big.’ From then on, more copies got printed, more people started ordering, and more organizations started reaching out for interviews. Today, we have sold over 6,000 books and more orders are coming in.”

The students have also given back to the community through donations. Their books have raised over $13,00 for various organizations, including over $3,000 for Black Lives Matter and almost $3,000 for their local hospital.

Unlike a lot of school projects, the girls say that the coloring book was truly a team effort. “We spread out the work with separate jobs but they all come together so easily. Each book begins with Lauryn writing them with help editing from our friends, family, and teachers. After the writing is done, Sofia and Ella begin to create the drawings that go with the words. When they are finished, Erin takes both the sentences and drawings, exports them into Photoshop, and puts the pages together with sizing and organizing pictures. After that, a PDF file is made and the book can be printed.”

As an added bonus, every book even comes with a face mask.

According to the girls, the hardest part of the business was juggling the budding business while also studying for AP exams. “This definitely taught us time management and how to balance our school work with creating the book. But our teachers are really proud of us and we’ve gotten so much positive feedback from our community, especially parents and kids who have really enjoyed the book.”

The four friends are already working on a second book, Stand Up for Your-Shell-ves, which tackles teaching children about racism and discrimination with the help of Sam the Snail. You can keep up with the company’s upcoming coloring books on its Instagram page.

Anyone who orders a book is given the option to donate 40 percent of the $5 sales price to an organization of their choice. If you’re interested in snagging the creative book for yourself, it’s available to purchase on its website