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My parents specifically moved to the home I grew up in because it was walking distance to good public elementary, middle, and high schools. In fifth grade I changed schools because my county created a magnet program for public schools and I got into the Talented and Gifted (TAG) school. However, I had a great education in both public schools: great teachers, amazing opportunities, plenty of science, arts, and activities.
I continued with the public magnet school program through middle and high school. My public high school was across the county but it offered a humanities and international studies program where I studied Japanese, art history, and took AP and International Baccalaureate courses. My high school was in a lower income part of the county. Our football team and cheerleading squad wore mismatched uniforms because we couldn’t afford new ones. Visiting teams would laugh at the condition of our fields, our rusty bleachers, our lack of lights. I remember once walking back to the school from a field, past the bus of a visiting team. Someone yelled from the bus, “Your parents don’t love you enough to fix your school!” It wasn’t that, our classmates’ parents loved them so much they worked multiple jobs and then stayed up to help with homework. They worked on little sleep, little food, and sometimes no heat to be sure kids were dressed and fed and prepared for school. We as students protested when the county cut funding for buses to get kids home from after-school programs. It was a 40 minute drive to my high school; I was lucky to have a decade-old Toyota but not all kids did and it was the end of so many of our extracurricular groups and sports, affecting our college applications and chances for athletic scholarships. We went to the school board; this change was punishing the lower income kids. But the county didn’t have the money to spend.
My grandfather was a public school teacher and administrator. My mother was a public school teacher who continued to substitute teach in the public school system after retirement. When we had Emerson, we chose to stay in the town we lived in because of the public schools. I was grateful to my public education for exposing me to so many different types of people – different races, cultures, economic levels, lifestyles. That alone was as valuable as fractions and contractions. While we are not against private school, we know that isn’t an option for everyone. Rural communities, low-income neighborhoods not in metropolitan areas, reservations, and many other communities often don’t have charter or private schools to provide school choice. There’s no benefit to living in a bubble and I think that has never been so clear than right now. And thanks to people not wishing to see outside their bubbles, public education is at risk. Here’s some organizations that help the neediest public schools and their students:
No Kid Hungry
Over half the public school students in this country are from low-income families. Let that sink in for a second. 3 out of 4 public school teachers say that students regularly come to school hungry. 81% say it happens at least once a week. When kids are hungry, they can’t focus, and they fall behind.
With free breakfast served in the classrooms of public schools, 73% of teachers see kids paying better attention in class, 53% see improved attendance, and 48% see fewer disciplinary problems. Every $10 donated to No Kid Hungry provides up to 100 meals for kids who are facing hunger. Click here to learn more; click here to get involved or donate.
Teachers on average spend $500 out of pocket every year on their classrooms and curriculum and 91% of teachers purchase school supplies for their students. Founded in 2000 by a high school teacher in the Bronx, DonorsChoose empowers public school teachers from across the country to request much-needed materials and experiences for their students. You can go through the site and fund any project that appeals to you, no amount is too small.
Click here to learn more. While it's tempting to support the school systems near you, consider searching for cities or states that you know may need it most. I donated to this one in Alaska that looked interesting.
Kids in Need Foundation
The Kids In Need Foundation’s mission is to ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed by providing free school supplies nationally to students most in need. For the 16 million kids who come from families struggling with extreme poverty, getting school supplies can make all the difference in the world to their future success. Last year, the Kids In Need Foundation helped 154,000 teachers and 4.8 million students in some of the most challenged communities across the country. In our 20 years, they have distributed nearly $800 million in supplies to kids who would otherwise go without.
Kids in Need Foundation has several programs to assist children:
- National Network of Resource Centers – Sponsored by Target, The Kids In Need Foundation partners with 40 locations across the country to help distribute much needed school supplies to kids who would otherwise go without. These organizations support challenged communities where 70% or more of the kids are on a federal nutrition program. With the generous support of our donors, sponsors, and national product partners, we supply them with the basic tools needed to learn and succeed in school.
- Second Responder – The Kids In Need Foundation’s Second Responder program is dedicated to providing school supplies to students affected by natural disasters. Unlike those providing the critical necessities of food, shelter, and medical aid after a disaster, second responders operate during the recovery period following the devastation. Second Responder works with local authorities, schools, and select sponsors to help kids return to normal routines.
- School Ready Supplies – The School Ready Supplies program is dedicated to providing those in need of school supplies with the tools necessary to be successful in the classroom. Through sponsorship, they provide pre-assembled backpacks filled with essential school supplies or deliver bulk supplies to host backpack-building events.
- Teacher Grants – Applications are accepted between July 15–Sept. 30 for teacher grants through Kids in Need Foundation. A.C. Moore works with Kids in Need Foundation to award $100 gift cards to 250 teachers for the purpose of funding project-based, hands-on lessons that incorporate arts & crafts into science, math, STEM/STEAM, social studies or language arts to enhance the learning experiences of their students.
Kids in Need Foundation accepts donations of cash, vehicles, assets, electronics, gift cards, and more. Click here to learn more.
A portion of the revenue this blog earns this month will be donated to each of these organizations. If you know of another reputable program that helps public school kids, do share in the comments!
Wendy Gennaula says
Thank you! I’m a few days late, but I needed to add an additional shout out for Kids In Need. My 21 year old son, who has autism, had the opportunity to have an “exploratory work experience” at our area resource center. They worked with his job coach, and he earned a paycheck. Everyone was so wonderful, and he got to do meaningful work that is preparing him for the competitive workforce. It’s tough for people with disabilities to get the experience they need for entry level jobs. We’re still working on it, but Kids In Need helped him take a big leap forward.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
Wow, that is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m so glad Kids in Need provide such enriching experiences!
I am a long time reader, but I’m now compelled to comment. Thank you so much for supporting public education! There are too many people who bad mouth teachers. As a life long educator, the aren’t many who understand the challenges teachers face. Thank you again!
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
Thank YOU for being a teacher, it’s a hard, often thankless and low paying job. You are a hero, and the foundation of all the great people in this country!
I would add the Network for Public Education as an organization worthy of consideration and donation. From its website: “The goal of NPE is to connect all those who are passionate about our schools – students, parents, teachers and citizens. We share information and research on vital issues that concern the future of public education at a time when it is under attack.”
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
A great addition, thank you Julie! http://networkforpubliceducation.org/
Thank you. There is a great article on huffington post (“Revenge of the lunch lady”) about school lunch, and since reading it I have been thinking of ways to give back in that arena. I am definitely bookmarking your suggestions.
Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen says
For those interested in this piece, here’s the link: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/school-lunch/ thank you Rachna for sharing!
Allie, thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking out for public schools!! I am a proud product of public schools, as is my husband. Our child is in public school now & I work for a public school district. It’s a large urban district with much poverty. Public schools are under attack on both the state and national levels. We desperately need all the support we can get. We also need people to know that public schools do a great job of educating students–in spite of what certain political types would have you believe. Thank you for this post!
Bravo to your for using your platform for such an important cause!
Thank you for cheering on public school education! I too was raised in a lower middle class family–dad was in the military, while mom stayed home until after we left grammar school then joined the work force. Not counting my earliest education in England, I went to public schools in Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, Montana, and New York. I received a great and varied education with all types of subject matter covered. I was in the Honor Society and on the honor roll many times. As a result, I feel truly enriched by my early learning experience.
Bravo, Allie! Thank you for using your megaphone to help our children.