In Southwestern Pennsylvania, 26,000 students lack the basic school supplies necessary for their education. As a result of recent funding cuts to education at the state level, many local teachers spend up to $1,500 every year to provide their classrooms with essential supplies.
|STUDENTS AND SUPPLIES—Student at Urban Pathways Charter School excitedly opens a kit from The Education Partnership full of pencils, crayons, markers, and other supplies.
For the past three years, The Education Partnership, a nonprofit organization located in the West End, has been working to fill this gap. This school year, they’ve also launched a new initiative to engage corporations and companies in helping provide students and teachers with the tools and resources they need for classroom success.
“This is easy; it’s a fixable problem and everyone has in them the power to help,” said Amanda McQuillan, TEP community engagement coordinator. “How well would anyone be able to do their job if they didn’t have the tools they need?”
TEP’s Homeroom Heroes initiative asks corporations to repurpose gently used supplies and donate them to teachers and students. Companies can also host product drives, volunteer their time, and donate financial support to the organization.
“People are grateful to know there’s someplace to put these items where they’re going to good use instead of to the landfill. So it’s an opportunity for companies to get rid of stuff that’s been sitting around the office,” McQuillan said. “It’s just that idea of a superhero, that we can all be superheroes.”
As of August 2012, TEP has distributed more than $1 million in school supplies. During this school year, the organization predicts they will serve more than 600 teachers and 6,000 students and distribute more than $650,000 in school supplies.
“It all comes down to a pure feeling of being supported. When the teachers and the students know someone cares about them and the community is behind them, it changes the moral in the school,” McQuillan said.
Founded in 2009, TEP serves six counties in Southwestern Pennsylvania. The organization was created to address the needs of teachers and students in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
“What’s hard to communicate is the emotional fallout from a kid who doesn’t feel prepared for class,” said TEP Executive Director Justin Brown. “We hear testimonies about what happens when you give a kid a new notebook. We hear the testimonies of the teachers. The teachers come back to us and they say, this changes everything in the classroom.”
In order to be eligible for the program, at least 70 percent of a school’s students must qualify for the National School Lunch Program. One in three students in the Pittsburgh Public School District qualify to receive school supplies from the program.
“Once a year we go into each school and hand them a school kit with grade appropriate supplies and it’s theirs,” Brown said. “There’s definitely a feeling of pride and ownership and we love seeing that. We’re able to deliver a great message about their dreams and how they need the power tools (school supplies) to get that done.”
Schools interested in the program can apply to TEP, whose School Selection Committee annually accepts as many schools as product inventory and funding allow. For more information visit www.TheEducationPartnership.org.