by Adrienne Chu
When school social worker Keri Sartin moved to her new office at West Education Campus, the room only had a couple of round tables and a few chairs. When I visited her a few weeks into the school year, she showed me the repurposed preschool cubbies she had scavenged and turned on their side to make shelves for the toys, games, and other supplies she uses to help anxious students feel more at ease.
DCPS gives teachers a small budget at Staples that allows them to buy some supplies, but Keri estimates she spends $300 to $400 a year on items for West’s 300 preschool through eighth grade students.
“It becomes difficult at times to make sure I have things [the students need]," said Keri, a mother of a four-year-old who herself lives on a modest salary in an expensive city.
That is why she and so many other educators in Petworth and across the District have turned to crowd-funding sites like Donors Choose to enrich their students’ learning experiences.
Keri's project, “Calm, Cool, Relaxed…Ready to Learn,” has a long list of basic supplies for a school social worker: a dollhouse that allows children to act out problems they can’t express in words, books that reflect their feelings and show them how to solve problems, and games that teach social skills and allow for more relaxed conversations about difficult issues.
Michelle Flores is a dual-language first grade teacher at Powell Elementary who is also using Donors Choose to offer her students something outside the limited DCPS budget. Michelle created “1st Graders + Bilingual Theater = Muy Bueno” to raise money to take 77 first graders to Columbia Heights’ GALA Hispanic Theater to see a play performed in both English and Spanish.
“I’m hoping the students can internalize the importance of being bilingual,” Michelle said. She also said that since posting the Donors Choose campaign, GALA has offered her a discount, so that big price tag on the website will soon be a bit smaller. (There are only three weeks left to give, so hurry if you want to help her meet her goal.)
Both West and Powell are Title I schools, as are most of the schools in the Petworth area. This means they have large populations of disadvantaged students, students who need their schools to supply them with basic needs (like free breakfasts and lunches), with enrichment and support they may not get anywhere else. That’s why Petworth-area educators are turning to us — members of the community they serve — to help them do the most for their students. If DC government can't afford to have the programs our kids need, then the community should consider assisting.
If you want to support your local schools (and you should!), here are links to the active Donors Choose projects in the Petworth area (if you know of others, feel free to post them in the comments):
This is the first article by new Petworth News contributing writer Adrienne Chu. Learn more about Adrienne and our new contributing writers on the About Petworth News page.