The Power of Community

You know how sometimes something can happen that leaves you speechless? Something that humbles you and reaffirms your belief that there are amazing people out there? I had one of those weeks. Actually, it was the culmination of a few weeks. But it was amazing. This week I learned that there is great power to make positive change in our schools when we reach out to our community.

I work at a small alternative high school. We have very small, limited facilities. This is my first year there as the sole English teacher and I was disheartened to find we have no school/class library. Well, there is a small collection of donated books given, I am sure, with the best of intentions. Not a lot there to appeal to the reluctant, low skilled, low motivated readers sitting in my class. So, I set about to remedy the situation. I unpacked my boxes of books carted across country and brought those in. I took a small portion of my first paycheck and selected some titles I knew would sell in reluctant reader circles. I applied for a grant, but was turned down, so I appealed to my wonderful colleagues on the EC Ning for some other funding ideas. They shared so many great ideas. One of my amazing Ning colleagues even sent my students a box of books (which have been zipping off the shelves I might add!).

One of the ideas shared was Donors Choose.org. I have to admit I was a little hesitant. I’m not much for “selling” my ideas, but I put my biases aside and went for it. I posted a project that asked for a list of books and audiobooks that I felt would appeal to my mostly male students. I sent out the link to my project and then things began to snowball! The pastor at my church (Rich Greenway, you are amazing!) took this project to heart and hasn’t stopped trying to think of ways to help! At a recent evening event, the church sold refreshments and donated the proceeds towards our library. The band performing that night asked that the money collected for them when the hat was passed be donated as well.  Wow!

And then the donations started flying in to Donors Choose. With the wonderful funding match offer from the Gates Foundation, some donors from other states, the support of my friends and family and support of my church family our project was funded in just a few short weeks! In the next few weeks, 75 books and audiobooks will arrive at our school. I can’t wait for those boxes to arrive and to have my kids help me open them. I can’t wait for them to pull out books and see that others believe in them. Believe that they are capable, amazing human beings who deserve the chance to learn.

And we aren’t done! That money from the church? Didn’t even have a chance to apply it to the project before it was fully funded. So, that means that list of magazines we want to subscribe to, will be arriving. Those graphic novels I’ve had my eye on at Borders? They’ll be arriving. Our next goal? Reference books and nonfiction galore to help us with our research papers. Where will those books come from? Not sure yet, but I am sure they will come. Why am I so sure? Because the power of community is amazing. I encourage you. Tap into that power. Reach out to your community. You might be amazed at what can happen.

P.S.- The director of secondary education heard about the project and came to meet with me to see how he might help get some resources. Several board members know of the project. One of the most exciting aspects of this process that only my teaching colleagues will truly appreciate- NOT ONE person has asked me how this will improve test scores. Everyone agrees- kids need to read. And they deserve the resources to do that.

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