Courtney Caldwell teaches band at Ferndale Middle School in High Point.

It’s a Title 1 school, meaning many students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Of the roughly 70 children in her class, Caldwell says only a few have their own instrument. The rest rent from the school.

But in order for the clarinets, saxophones, and xylophones to make sound, the students also need reeds and mallets – which many can’t afford. 

Caldwell says she’s paid out of pocket for supplies in the past. This year, she’s raising money on DonorsChoose, a crowdfunding site specifically for public education. 

“I have a lot of kids who have a lot of trauma. And so this is one way for them to have an outlet,” Caldwell said. “And I really feel like even though they may not be able to afford, because we're in public school, they should still have access to it. No matter what your background is, you should always have access to music education.”

Lane Brown, the district’s director of grants acquisition, says GCS began partnering with DonorsChoose in 2005 to raise money for various school projects. She trains teachers on how to effectively use the site. 

“We have teachers who are getting classroom reading rugs, they're building classroom libraries, they're building maker spaces in the media centers,” she said. “Some projects involve more than one teacher in a school where teachers will get together for like a common project, say they want to do something special with their students.”

Other teachers, she says, are just trying to cover the basics. 

“In Guilford County schools, we have 126 schools, and about 63% of our students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, which is a common indicator of poverty and links to that Title 1 status,” Brown said. “So we have students who are coming in and teachers who need things as basic as, you know, basic school supplies.”

There are more than 130 Guilford County Schools projects currently listed on DonorsChoose. Brown says on Giving Tuesday this year, donors fully funded wish lists for close to 40 teachers. The total amount raised was more than $18,000. 

Susan Skinner, a sixth-grade Language Arts teacher at Melvin C. Swann Junior Middle School, had her $276 goal met that day.

The funds went toward 19 new books about space for her classroom library with up-to-date research. Her students are learning about all things space–rockets, the moon, stars, galaxies, and black holes.

On her DonorsChoose project, Skinner wrote that there were few current books about space available in the library and that many of her students lack internet access. 

“We didn't have any up-to-date books in our library. They were really old,” she said. “And some of these are like 2020. So they've been really, really helpful.”

The district has raised more than $2 million for various projects through DonorsChoose since 2005.

Amy Diaz covers education for WFDD in partnership with Report For America. You can follow her on Twitter at @amydiaze.

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