Here’s a short list of great orgs that support learning in profound ways. Some are seeking volunteers, and all are seeking $ contributions.
DONORSCHOOSE.ORG What’s very high up on the list of the most important things in the world? The education of our children. Yet teachers often don’t have the bare essentials to help kids learn. If you have any teacher friends, you know that although they are seriously underpaid, they are always spending their own money for all kinds of things. The national organization donorschoose.org makes it possible for public school teachers in underfunded schools to raise money for projects and supplies. “Public school teachers from every corner of America post classroom project requests on our site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you.” BIll Ohl, a 6th grade teacher in a high poverty school in the Bronx, is a superhero fundraiser and has a special way of choosing books that engage his kids: popular series; bios of people they’re actually interested in, like the band One Direction; and pithier books like The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (great book, review here). You can watch Bill talk about his book drive here. Kate Clute, an elementary school teacher at Bronx Community Charter School last year, discovered that many of her students had never been out of their Bronx neighborhood. So she raised the money through donorschoose.org to take her students on a springtime double-decker bus tour of Manhattan. Afterwards, they spent time polishing up their letter-writing skills:
PROJECT RHYTHM The mission of Project Rhythm, a Brooklyn, NY-based non-profit: “To use music as an educational tool to improve the social and emotional, cognitive, school performance and job readiness of youth who are poor in means, but rich in potential. Project Rhythm is committed to using music as a way to educate and prepare youth to become beneficial contributors in society.” I’ve seen Project Rhythm’s programs firsthand because they run programs at Camp AmeriKids, where I work. They get kids making music: writing, collaborating, performing, recording, engineering. Then they place them in internships. What more perfect way to connect with youth than through music? Their gains from this musical journey affect all the areas of their lives. You can read testimonials from some of their students and listen to some of the work of kids in Project Rhythm programs at sites as varied as Horizons Bronx Juvenile Detention Center, Public School 307, South Asian Youth Action, and Camp AmeriKids.
826 VALENCIA Co-founded by writer, editor, and publisher Dave Eggers, 826 Valencia is a nonprofit org “dedicated to supporting students ages six to eighteen with their creative and expository writing skills and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen when trained tutors work one-on-one with students and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.” This groundbreaking San Francisco literacy project now has spinoffs in seven other cities. Eggers talks about the history of the org in this informative and entertaining TED Talks video.
GIRLS WRITE NOW Girls Write Now pairs underserved girls with women writer mentors. Their mission: “To provide guidance, support, and opportunities for at-risk and underserved girls from New York City’s public high schools to develop their creative, independent voices, explore careers in professional writing, and learn how to make healthy school, career and life choices.” Let these gals tell you themselves: