October is here, which means kids are getting back into the swing of the school year. For many students, a new school year means stocking up on necessary supplies like pencils, boxes of crayons, and brand new gym shoes.
This fresh gear may inspire innovation and ideas in the next generation of thinkers. But for those in need, securing even the most basic staples can be a serious challenge. In many cases, teachers pick up the slack to ensure students have these essentials—in 2018, public school teachers reported spending an average of nearly $500 a year on classroom supplies.
Thankfully, organizations across the country offer easy ways to help students and classrooms in need. This list provides a solid starting point for anyone looking to support new learners and future leaders.
Public schools are known for being strapped for cash. Teachers often try to work wonders on shoestring budgets as class sizes increase and spending per pupil plummets.
Enter: Donors Choose. This dynamic nonprofit connects private funders to educators across the country. It has fulfilled more than 1.3 million projects and requests from teachers looking to bring lessons to life.
Getting involved is easy. Potential donors can search the site to find projects that resonate with personal interests, favorite subject, or a close-to-the-heart cause. Whether it’s a butterfly garden for a first-grade class in rural Delaware or a set of books for an English teacher in Tennessee, Donors Choose has a wide array of teacher requests to choose from.
Once a donation is made and all project funds are received, Donors Choose fulfills the request and ships materials directly to the school. Finally, classrooms snap photos and send thank-you notes. These are included in a message to donors, along with a detailed report showing how each and every dollar was spent.
Backpacks are an essential part of any back-to-school kit, and ensuring they’re stocked with the necessary supplies to promote learning, growth, and creativity has become the mission of Volunteers of America’s Operation Backpack project.
Each year community service volunteers, corporate sponsors, and local agency employees gather to sift through markers, pencils, crayons, and calculators for students embarking on a new academic year. More than 2,100 volunteers spend “sort weeks” filling backpacks with all of the essentials before delivering them to those in need. Whether it’s showing up in person to lend a hand during this once-a-year event, becoming a corporate sponsor, or donating funds or supplies, there are numerous ways to get involved.
Pencils of Promise
Since its inception in 2008, Pencils of Promise has built more than 500 schools and currently serves more than 102,000 students worldwide. The nonprofit was inspired by a backpacking trip across the globe by founder Adam Braun, who distributed pencils and pens to young people and watched as opportunities unfolded before their eyes.
Pencils of Promise focuses on increasing community engagement, empowering locals, and collaborating with government agencies already on the ground. Among other initiatives, its projects work to provide teacher support and digital platforms; educate learners on water, sanitation, and hygiene; and build new schools in remote areas. With an easy-to-use fundraising platform, becoming a Pencils of Promise donor is simple.
Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BCGA) is known for its diverse portfolio of after-school programming, athletics, and educational enrichment opportunities in resource-limited communities. Donations can be made on the organization’s website—or even while shopping, thanks to BCGA's retailer partnerships.
During summer months, stores like Gap, Old Navy, and Michaels host week-long shopping events to encourage donations to BCGA. Some retailers even offer coupons for those who choose to contribute, which can be redeemed on future purchases.
Regardless of where or how donations are made, funds go toward supporting youth and providing classroom essentials.
Do you know a great education organization to contribute to? Tweet at us and let us know.
Jill Nawrocki is a Licensed Social Worker and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Brooklyn. She is an ultra runner, freelance writer and social justice warrior with a background in program management, direct practice, mindfulness and advocacy.