PASADENA (CBS) — Fifth and 6th grade government students hosted a hot soul food lunch at Sequoyah School in Pasadena in an effort to raise money to help lower the national debt of more than $15 trillion.

How much did they raise? A little over $200. But the action they took and the lessons they learned proved more valuable than the check they plan to send to the federal government.

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“You don’t need a lot of money to start,” 12-year-old Avery Tyler said. “One dollar — if each person gives one dollar, then it becomes a big thing. You don’t have to give a lot to get a lot.”

Avery was part of the Susanna Barkataki’s 5th and 6th grade government class, studying politics and the financial crisis. They came up with the idea of asking for the $3 donation for Friday’s hot lunch and sending the proceeds to the feds.

“They looked at Tea Party solutions, they looked at Republican solutions, Democratic solutions,” Barkataki said. “They wanted to make a difference.”

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Some parents found the thought of lunch donations helping to pare down the astronomical national debt a little comical, but they came around.

“I was a little bit skeptical of whether that was a good cause, maybe they could put it to something where they could see the effect of their money more immediately,” parent Julianna Ferry said. “But then when I thought about it, I realized that its actually really optimistic and what really needs to be happening on a larger level for this to be changed.”

The students’ efforts won’t stop at the hot lunch. They plan to write to local corporations and politicians to urge them to donate what they can.

“It’ll inspire maybe other people and corporations and government officials to, to give money too,” Ella Wood, 11, said. “And we can help pay off the debt, so it isn’t a big problem for us when we grow up.”

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Donations from the hot lunch totaled $408.95, but the cost of the food served was $200, so the check the students send will be a little over $200. However, the amount is more than the students hoped to raise, CBS2/KCAL9 reporter Kristine Lazar said.