Things I Know 352 of 365: I support the National Writing Project, and you should too

Every day, in every state, we make a difference in the lives of students of all ages — breaking new ground and preparing students for success in school, college, the workplace, and in life.

– National Writing Project

As I’ve written before, the national education budget was extremely shortsighted and ended direct federal funding for the National Writing Project and programs like it. This was despite the fact the NWP continually met or exceeded federal benchmarks for program success in improving writing and writing instruction in classrooms around the country.

Proving ever-nimble and adaptive, the NWP is not going gently into that good night. In fact, it has no plans of leaving. As of this Fall, the NWP has begun a capital campaign to shore up support for the NWP and its regional sites around the country.

Contributions to local sites will be used to help fund the sites while contributions to the NWP “will be used for areas of greatest need, infrastructure, research and cross-site programs, and new sites,” according to the NWP.

I made room in my budget to make a small donation a few moments ago. You should too.

Once grad school’s behind me and I’m back among the land of the employed I plan on contributing to the NWP the way some people contribute to their alma maters. That’s how much I believe in the work they do.

Please, do the same.

When completing my donation, I was given the choice of donating in honor of someone. I chose Dr. Justice, one of my mentor professors in undergrad. The effects of her tutelage on living and breathing the written word have had innumerable echoes in my life as a writer and teacher.

When you donate, I encourage you to think about the writer or writing teacher in your life who inspired your voice and donate in their honor or memory.

While I’m saddened that the NWP has been forced to dedicated resources to fundraising that could otherwise be turned to improving teaching and learning, I’m happy to know it is an organization of impassioned professionals dedicated to continuing their mission, no matter the obstacles.

Please, help.

21 Ways: (4) Freedom Writers Foundation

Last year, I cut back on the stuff I gave for Christmas. While my younger siblings still got books, other family members got gift certificates to various charities in lieu of gifts. Thus, this. Each day from here to 2010, I’ll be posting one charity, NGO or non-profit I can get behind in the spirit of giving.

I’ve been connected with the Freedom Writers Foundation in some way or another for almost 4 years now.

I met Erin Gruwell when she came to speak at our Back-to-School keynote in SRQ. Afterward, we welcomed Erin and Freedom Writer Sonia to our school for a lunch reception. We talked for maybe five minutes, and that was it. A year later, Erin e-mailed me and asked me to fly out to Long Beach, CA as part of a pilot program the Foundation was working on to educate and connect teachers across the country.

I went.

An organization created to collect and award scholarships from the sales of The Freedom Writers Diary, the FWF expanded a few years ago to train and connect educators.

Eventually, I got to work with the Foundation during the summer to help with successive groups of teachers going through the program. Being able to participate and watch from the outside has given me a unique perspective. No matter what criticisms are lobbed, the Freedom Writers Institute is amazing. Solely through donations, teachers are flown to Long Beach, CA for 5 days of training, all expenses paid. I don’t have to explain how rare this kind of generosity in PD is for teachers.

With educators (it’s not just classroom teachers) from every state, several Canadian provinces and a couple territories, the program has connected me in a close-knit way to 200+ people working to help kids learn in every environment imaginable.

While I’m fortunate enough to work with a faculty at SLA who are tremendously supportive and collaborative, not all of the FWT have the same luck. Through the implementation of MOODLE, the FWF maintains a networking, resource-sharing tool that keeps the FWT connected.

The Freedom Writers Institute connected me to veteran and navice educators from all over North America.

Like many non-profit organizations, the FWF has been hit hard economically. The skeleton crew that keeps it going are working fairly creatively to pull together the funds necessary to continue helping teachers.

If you’re interested in helping, buy The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers or Teaching Hope by The Freedom Writer Teachers (including me) and gift it. If you’re interested in being more direct, donations are accepted here.

21 Ways: (1) Donors Choose

Last year, I cut back on the stuff I gave for Christmas. While my younger siblings still got books, other family members got gift certificates to various charities in leiu of gifts. Thus, this. Each day from here to 2010, I’ll be posting one charity, NGO or non-profit I can get behind in the spirit of giving.

Be No. 1... Give to Public Schools in Need! - Go to
Starting off easy, today with Donors Choose.

I speak first-hand about the help Donors Choose can provide when funds for supplies are low.

Launched in 2000 and sprouting from a Bronx high school, Donors Choose operates as a community grant funding organization built specifically to help classroom teachers. Though the majority of the proposals are for classroom supplies, Donors Choose also hosts proposals to help with field trips, furniture and the like.

Donors can search for projects close to their heart, a certain type of school, or geographic location. Donations can be of any amount. If a project you’ve donated to is only partially funded by the deadline, Donors Choose will send you an e-mail asking you to choose one of these options:

  1. You choose a project to support. This option lets you browse through the many wonderful projects at and find one that inspires you.
  2. We choose a project that’s in urgent need of funding on your behalf. This option is quick and easy, and gets resources into a high need classroom.
  3. The teacher chooses a new project. This option is the best way to ensure that your donation is used by the same teacher and classroom you originally supported.

Once a project’s fully funded, Donors Choose handles all the messy work of purchasing and shipping the materials. Teachers never handle the money, so there’s no accounting accountability over their heads.

The process doesn’t end once a project is funded. Classrooms are held accountable by Donors Choose and asked to complete a Thank You Packet including photos of students using the purchased materials, thank-you cards from students and a letter of impact from the teacher.

After the successful submission of the Thank You Packet, teachers are awarded points that allow them to post more and / or larger proposals. Failure to submit a Thank You Packet can result in a teacher’s removal from Donors Choose. From what I’ve seen, this means a certain level of quality is maintained.

If you’re looking to donate directly to a project, head to the Donors Choose page. If you’re looking to gift a donation, head here.