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Conscience was their guide after lucky find

On St. Patrick's Day, three students find lots of green - at least $300 worth. They decide there is but one thing to do.

By JOUNICE L. NEALY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Cheryl Billups, Lauren Kellar and Jacob Kellar boarded their school bus on St. Patrick's Day and struck gold.

Well, almost. The Campbell Park Elementary School students found a wallet with more than $300 in it, almost $400 by one of their estimates.

There was talk about divvying up the cash -- lots of $10's, $20's, and at least one $50 bill.

Even if they split the money three ways, 7-year-old Jacob said it would have been enough for him to buy a house.

But they changed their minds after they thought about the potential interrogation from their parents and prior lessons about returning what is not yours.

They turned the wallet in to Campbell Park officials, who were able to determine that it belonged to a student at Boca Ciega High School, 924 58th St. S. The 10th-grader, who was given back the money, had mistakenly left the wallet on the bus. The student could not be reached for comment.

"We found it in our seat and then when Cheryl grabbed it, she said that it was garbage but it wasn't," Jacob started with his version of the story.

"I was trying to say that so you guys wouldn't get excited," 10-year-old Cheryl explained. As a matter of fact, Cheryl said, she actually found the wallet, but it was in the Kellars' seat.

"You guys wanted to turn it in to the police and I said turn it in to the school," said Cheryl, who lives next door to the Kellar kids.

All of them agreed, at least, that they were afraid when they found out there was so much money.

"First we were were all scared. What are we going to do?" said Lauren, 10. "Mom's gonna go, "Where'd you get it from and where'd you find it?' Mom would ask all these questions like you're doing."

Plus, keeping the money just did not sit well with them.

"It feels really good," Lauren said about turning in the money. "If we would have kept it, it would have been like stealing someone's house, and that wouldn't be right."

"I would have felt really bad if somebody took my $400," Cheryl said.

Campbell Park officials will recognize the three at an achievement ceremony on March 31 at the school.

Phil Daugherty, who teaches fourth grade at Campbell Park, 1101 Seventh Ave. S, and handles the school's busing issues, said he was not surprised by the students' honesty.

"I just feel that they would not keep it. Tempting, but they would not do it," Daugherty said.

"But," Jacob said, "I'd feel a little better if I'd kept a $20 bill."

He doesn't mean that, his big sister Lauren explained.

"What he's trying to say is, (he'd feel a little better) if she gave him a $20 bill for a reward."

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