Local News

Nonprofit, Web Site Offers Donors Unique Way To Give To Schools

Posted April 29, 2004

— Every year, teachers dig into their own pockets to pay for classroom supplies which do not fit into their school budget.

A New York nonprofit that matches teachers with donors willing to fund their projects has expanded to North Carolina.

Students at Durham's Oak Grove Elementary School in Durham sing their way into Michelle Starks' first-grade class.

"She kind of puts fun stuff into math and fun stuff into writing," student Cassidy Thompson said.

Starks has a little help making learning fun.

A new organization in North Carolina, called

Donors Choose

, allows teachers to make requests for special classroom materials online. Donors can browse the site and contribute directly to the specific project.

"The donor knows exactly where the money is going. They can choose the projects that most interest them. It's a transparent process," said Missy Sherburne, North Carolina's Donors Choose director.

"I just thought I'd give back a little," donor Beth Baldwin said. "I know teachers struggle to come up with materials, especially at the end of the year."

A donor recently paid for music and play scripts for Starks classroom. Starks uses plays to teach her students a variety of subjects.

One script costs $85.

"The school gives us about $200 for our discretionary needs for a whole year," she said. "That would be half my budget, that's not feasible."

Another one of Starks' requests that was funded is for geoblocks. Starks uses them in math class and each set costs $90. She will have three sets next year thanks to Donors Choose.

Since February, donors have paid out more than $50,000 to cover 178 projects -- proof that one person can make a big difference.

Because donors peruse the proposals from teachers online, people from anywhere can donate. So far, individuals from 30 states have funded projects in North Carolina schools through the online program.

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