Saving the rhino: Excelsior 5th graders strive to save endangered species

Clockwise, Excelsior Elementary Principal Stacy DeCorsey and fifth-graders Anna Gilbertson, Julia Constantineau and Nora Tearle. The girls created a t-shirt to raise funds to help save the rhinos. (Sun Sailor staff photo by Paige Kieffer)

By Paige Kieffer
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Three Excelsior Elementary fifth-grade students are leading a T-shirt campaign to help save rhinos from becoming extinct.

Earlier this year, Nora Tearle and Anna Gilbertson picked up a copy of Scholastic Scope in their English class. In the magazine they found an article about endangered elephants and white rhinos by author Kristin Lewis.

“We were reading about how these animals were dying and why people were poaching them,” Tearle said. “I saw pictures in my research and saw how awful it was.”

“Nora said this is terrible and we should do something to help so she said let’s do a fundraiser,” Gilbertson said.

Left to right, Julia Constantineau, Nora Tearle and Anna Gilbertson organize the “Rhino Rescue” t-shirts they created to raise funds to save rhinos that are at risk for extinction. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools)

According to the International Rhino Foundation, the charity the girls are working to help support, five rhino species are being threatened with extinction. Only three northern white rhinos are left in the world – two females and an aging male in Kenya.

Poachers target rhinos for their horns. The horns are often used to make herbal medicines in Asian countries.

“We researched about it and saw there are only three white rhinos left in the world,” said Gilbertson. “We were heartbroken and we knew we had to help.”

Tearle and Gilbertson recruited their classmate, Julia Constantineau, to help save the rhinos.

“I joined because I wanted to help the rhinos,” Constantineau said. “This has been a team effort and we really worked together to save the rhinos.”

The three girls went to Principal Stacy DeCorsey with their mission.

“Principal DeCorsey is such a great principal because she supported us even though we didn’t have all the details,” Gilbertson said. “We said we wanted to help the rhinos and she said, ‘cool how can I help?’”

The girls decided to raise funds by creating a T-shirt and selling adult and children sizes around the school.

“It’s so impressive that these girls did it all on their own,” DeCorsey said. “They said we wanted to raise money to help the rhinos and I said, ‘go come up with ideas, design a T-shirt, make an order form ready and we will meet again.’”

The girls designed a white T-shirt with blue and red stripes and a rhino. The T-shirt says “Rhino Rescue.”

Constantineau said the T-shirt design went through many changes. Initially the shirt said “Rainbow Rhinos” but was changed to “Rhino Rescue” to focus more on their mission.

“Rhino Rescue” t-shirt. (Photo courtesy of Minnetonka Schools)

“I really think this has grown in such an amazing way,” Constantineau said.

DeCorsey said the girls, “gave up their lunch or recess to go over ideas or do things that they needed to do.”

The girls worked with a company called Custom Inc. The company donated $45 and gave $25 off every order.

Next the girls created a video about rhinos, that can be viewed at, that was shown in classrooms across the school. They also did morning announcements to promote Rhino Rescue. Their slogan is, “Thank you for supporting our cause. It’s the little things that make a big difference.”

DeCorsey even wore a T-shirt to the local Target and got asked by a number of people what Rhino Rescue was. “The more you wear the shirt, the more people ask and want to help,” she said.

The girls have raised more than $600 in sales and also a number of donations have been made directly to the International Rhino Foundation.

“It feel so good to be helping the rhinos,” Gilbertson said.

“I’m so proud of these girls,” DeCorsey said. “They’ve made such a big impact. Sometimes you worry about the future and the world and where things are going and these girls have re-initiated me knowing that the future is bright. They’re going to be the future leaders.”

To purchase a T-shirt, email DeCorsey at [email protected] or the order form (Rino Rescue) can be dropped off at the front desk at Excelsior Elementary, 441 Oak St., Excelsior. T-shirts are $10 and are in adult and children sizes. Checks can be made to Excelsior Elementary.

To make a donation to the International Rhino Foundation, visit