Colorful, handmade coffee mugs sit on the desks of Whitehall teachers and administrators thanks to the effort of a handful of students whose efforts also benefited Autism Speaks.

The nine students who made the mugs auctioned their handiwork in a closed, online auction within the Whitehall City School District, a task aimed at developing crucial life skills, said Andrea Baxter-Cortes, a speech language pathologist for the district.

It is the latest of many projects students in Peggy Rickman's class at Whitehall-Yearling High School have undertaken throughout the year to hone their communication, math and other skills.

The students glazed and painted coffee mugs, then using a Google-based application, accepted bids for the mugs in an auction limited to faculty and staff at Whitehall schools.

"The students tabulated the bids using math skills," Baxter-Cortes said.

The $300 in proceeds from the sale were donated to Autism Speaks.

The students chose Autism Speaks as the beneficiary because one of the students in the class has a brother on the autism spectrum, said Trea Will, an occupational therapist for Whitehall schools.

"The kids did all the planning for this. They picked their own designs and made the mugs," said Rickman, an intervention specialist at Whitehall schools.

She said aside from using math skills to tabulate bid sheets, her students furthered their communication skills by meeting with administrators to deliver the mugs, and also when presenting a check to Sheri Weithman, director of field development for Autism Speaks in Columbus and northwestern Ohio.

Unlike many other projects the students manage, Rickman said this one allowed them to experience how it feels to help others.

"We get a lot of help from others, such as donations of school supplies, but this project allowed my students to experience giving something back to the community," Rickman said.

And it showed.

"The kids were really excited to do this and felt great," Baxter-Cortes said.

Meanwhile, Rickman's students continue with other projects throughout the year, including auctioning Buckeye necklaces and operating the Rams' Coffee Express, a program students began in January that involves selling coffee in the morning at the district's administrative offices.

"Making the mugs was a chance for the kids to be givers ... it was a great experience," Baxter-Cortes said.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo