The most precious piece of swag I was given at the BlogHer conference last month were two $25 gift certificates from the worthy and ingenious organization Donors Choose. I'll be able to use one of the gift cards to fund a classroom project of my choice from the hundreds listed on their website.
After browsing the site, I've decided to help a Chicago teacher in a high poverty area who is seeking a class set of Howard Zinn's A Young People's History of the United States. Zinn's groundbreaking work turns traditional history-telling on its ear and broadcasts the voices that have gone largely unheard in history textbooks. (Remember when Matt Damon told Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting "If you want to read a real history book, read The People's History of the United States. That book will knock you on your ass"?) I'm really happy that more kids will be exposed to Zinn's exciting point of view. And even more happy that my money will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has recently partnered with Donors Choose specifically for projects that will "make sure that high school students graduate ready for success and prepared to earn postsecondary degrees." In the Chicago area alone, there are 31 classroom projects where your funding will be matched by the foundation.
Vicky Phillips, Director of Education Initiatives for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: "Our initiatives are all about making sure every student in this country is well prepared when they leave high school to enter college and to make sure every teacher and student has the support they need every time they step into a classroom. It provides immediate support for teachers for what they need on a daily basis."
As a former teacher, what really gets me jazzed up about Donors Choose is the key idea that classroom teachers are getting funding for WHAT THEY ASK FOR. Instead of a new educational fad plopping down from above, the projects that Donors Choose funds are designed by the very teachers who will implement them. These teachers know their kids; they know their kids' needs. And the Donors Choose model respects the teachers' knowledge, expertise and relationships with their students.
Donors Choose has a four star rating from Charity Navigator. Their work with the classroom teachers not only includes promotion of their projects, but work to insure the integrity of the purchase: verifying the availability of the needed resources, negotiating for discounts, examining the proposals for clarity and handling the purchasing and delivery of the resources.
Stephen Colbert, one of my pop culture heroes and a fan of the program, says, "It's such a simple, wonderful idea. It connects individual donors with individual classrooms and individual teachers and individual projects. You know exactly who you're helping and how you're helping them."
Would you like to help out a teacher and her or his kids? Check out the Donors Choose website and leave a comment here about what project YOU would like to help. I'll draw a name from all comments left by August 25. You will need to redeem the gift card by September 30.
Thanks so much!!