(NEW YORK) — Many public school teachers across the country are looking to go above and beyond to educate the next generation, and they’re turning to Donors Choose to raise money for school supplies and projects.
“About half the projects on our site are basics: paper, pencils, dictionaries, art supplies for an art teacher,” Donors Choose CEO Charles Best told ABC News’ T.J. Holmes.
The other half of the projects are “dreams,” Best added, such as “to take students to Washington, D.C., to do an incredible science experiment, to build a robot.”
Jane Viau, a high school teacher at the Frederick Douglass Academy in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, said she’s raised “over $82,000 worth of resources that go directly into the hands” of her students.
“I want kids to come in and feel the energy and feel the brightness — and want to learn,” she said.
Viau said the donors are from “all over the country,” and for many teachers, the site can be a major resource to fill funding gaps at a time when public school budgets are often tight.
Over three-quarters of her students come from low-income households, Viau added.
Without the resources and projects she was able to fund using Donors Choose, “I don’t think the kids would have reached their full potential,” Viau added. “They are hungry to learn. They’re eager to learn. I want to instill in them that ability to persevere, and to not quit, and be determined, and have grit, and know that they can do hard stuff — because they can.”
Viau just began her 17th year as a teacher. Before that, she worked on Wall Street as an investment banker. After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she said she had a crisis of conscious, which led her into education.
“I thought there’s a whole world out there, there’s a lot of good I can do, like how can I leave my mark on the world,” she said.
Shortly after, Viau found herself “in a classroom in Harlem teaching math,” she said. “And that’s what I’ve been doing very happily ever since.”
Carlos James, one of Viau’s former students, said he has been touched by the way strangers have shown that they care.
“Strangers coming out of their way to donate so an entire class can have a book,” he said, “it opens up your eyes on how much people really care about you.”
Another former student of Viau’s, Fati Fousseni, added that witnessing the generosity of donors “serves as an inspiration for me to give back if I can.”
At least seven of her former students have gone on to give back, donating to projects at their old school.
Elsewhere across the country, public school teachers of all subjects have also shared how they have used the site to help make a difference in their community.
Music teacher Genein Letford at the New Academy Elementary school in Canoga Park, California, said she has had 54 projects funded on the site, which includes everything from buying musical instruments to taking students on college visits.
Elementary school teacher Damon Qualls from Greenville, South Carolina, said that after noticing many of the young boys in his class didn’t have positive male role models, he turned to Donors Choose to fund the “Men Who Read” program, which invites male community leaders to visit his students and read to them. He also raised money to buy his students blazers and ties.
Through Donors Choose, educators across the country are making a difference in their communities and inspiring the next generation.
Viau called the strangers who support educational goals “our angels.”
“They help us create an oasis of hope in this room,” she said from her Harlem classroom. “When we come in this room, we know that anything is possible.”
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