When Alex Tejero started his first year of teaching at Riverside Elementary School in Miami, he was given a classroom with only a chalkboard.
Low on resources and eager to work hands-on with his fourth-grade students, he was able to get a projector for his class. Donors Choose and 15 donors made that possible.
Donors Choose is an online charity that helps teachers have their classroom needs fulfilled through monetary donations.
“Every year, teachers spend millions of dollars out of pocket for their classrooms,” said Charles Best, founder and CEO of Donors Choose. “Our goal has been to fulfill these classroom needs by connecting teachers with donors looking to support them.”
Best founded Donors Choose while he was a social studies teacher in the Bronx. After seeing the lack of funding at his school, he set out to find funding for classrooms through individuals offering support.
The donation process starts when public school teachers submit their classroom project requests to DonorsChoose.org. With the requests, teachers describe their project and select the specific products they need.
To ensure integrity, Donors Choose confirms the prices of the products and then posts the request.
Individuals nationwide are then able to see the projects and donate to any that they choose. Then Donors Choose buys the items and delivers them to the schools.
“It’s nice to see the connection between the donors and the teachers doing the project,” said Nancy Marmesh, a 39-year veteran teacher at Coconut Grove Elementary School.
Marmesh is currently requesting funding to create a science laboratory in her fifth-grade class.
With two months left on her project request, donors have given $221 toward her goal of $545.
Projects do not end once the target amount is reached. When materials are delivered to the classroom, donors receive thank-you notes and photos from the classes they supported.
In six years, Tejero has had more than a dozen projects fulfilled through the site.
A similar program, Adopt a Classroom, lets donors earmark funds for a particular classroom. It has been running since 1998.
Since 2000, Donors Choose has helped raise more than $187 million and has helped more than nine million students across the country.
By 2017, the site’s goal is to inspire a million people to give $100 million to help all of the nation’s high-poverty public schools in one school year.
“We want every student to have the opportunity to get a great education,” Best said. “That is why we feel a great responsibility to the thousands of teachers in America with needs. It is our responsibility to help ensure their success.”