I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that education is one of our most pressing societal issues. Our under-funded schools need help through more parental involvement, student and teacher commitment, community involvement and corporate sponsors-its time for us to get creative.
In brainstorming ideas for this article, I considered what we could all do on a bite-sized, individual level that would make an immediate impact. After all, students getting a good education and teachers doing their best with what they have, must continue while the larger problem solving occurs.
I visited the San Francisco Unified School District website at www.sfusd.edu to get some ideas. I was hoping to find information on how to sponsor a classroom, but found something much more manageable. There was a button on the site that lead me to a non-profit organization called Donors Choose. At www.DonorsChoose.org teachers submit proposals for things they need for their classroom. The proposals are submitted to Donors Choose volunteers who make sure that the proposal is valid and that donations will go for their intended purpose.
Having grown from a Bronx class room in 2000, the website now covers schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, North and South Carolina, Texas, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Alabama. This e-commerce website gives you search options by area, school, dollar amounts and curriculum. The teachers’ postings give a dollar amount to fulfill their proposal. You can donate the whole amount or some other lesser amount that will be cumulative with other philanthropists. According to the site, if you give $100 or more, you will get feedback from the teacher on how the class project went, along with photos of the students using the materials.
Here are a few examples of how you can get involved with under-funded schools needing help in the Bay Area:
- An art based kindergarten that needs money to provide supplies for ant farms so children can explore the life cycle.
- A special needs high school that needs calculators for low income students who are trying to pass the high school exit exam.
- Buying dictionaries to replace ones that are 38 years-old.
- A day-class for students with cognitive and physical impairments that teach them daily living skills-they need a washer and dryer.
- A kindergarten class that needs tables and chairs to replace mismatched, broken and graffiti ridden furniture.
- A school that needs a TV, VCR/DVD Player and stand to share with all their classes.
- I chose to fund gardening tools for an inner city school to assist in environmental education.
The hardest part is choosing which proposal has the greatest need. Many of the proposals are compelling, some less so, and unfortunately far too few are funded. Some proposals are quite expensive-computers or trips, so getting together with friends and family to fund a larger project would be a great, manageable thing to do.