10 Great Non-Profits Dedicated to Teachers, Students & Parents
December 20, 2011
Although most Americans agree that education is one of the most integral aspects of both a child’s life and our country’s future, schooling in the United States still faces a number of challenges. From the shortage of dedicated teachers to the need for more resources, American education as it stands could use a helping hand. In an effort to address some of these concerns, committed citizens have come together to create a number of organizations that make a difference every day in classrooms across the country. Here’s a list of some of the most important non-profit organizations dedicated to helping teachers, students and parents:
A favorite of television personality Stephan Colbert, Donors Choose is an online charity that allows individuals to give directly to teachers and students. Donors can browse classroom causes by location, materials requested or greatest need. Each classroom is profiled, with the requested supplies itemized and quantified, and a statement presented by the instructor. Once the user selects a classroom, Donors Choose facilitates the donation process, easily and efficiently connecting needy teachers and students with gracious benefactors.
Teach For America aims to address the achievement gap in high-needs schools by enlisting the help of recent college graduates. In exchange for a two-year commitment to teaching, these grads receive training, compensation and even consideration for loan deferments. Since its inception in 1990, more than 20,000 Teach For America corps members have completed their program commitments, each one helping a school in need.
Based out of Washington D.C., First Book is a nonprofit that aims to provide children from low-income families with quality reading materials. The organization attempts this through a variety of ways, including soliciting donations from publishers, offering educators and schools discounted texts, and coordinating local advisory boards to explore less visible issues of literacy. To date, First Book has distributed over 85 million books across the United States and Canada.
Founded in 1984, this nonprofit provides donated computers to students at risk, people with disabilities and the economically disadvantaged throughout the United States and beyond. Donors, be them corporate or individual, simply submit an inventory of the equipment they would like to give. The Cristina Foundation then matches the donation with a person in need, picks up the equipment and delivers it to the recipient.
Although Office Depot is a for-profit supplier of office products, the company also supports a variety of programs to help teachers and students of all ages. Initiatives include being a founding member of the Business Education Network, which seeks to advance the global competitiveness of the U.S. education system; the National Backpack Program, which gives new schoolbags to children in need; and the Kids in Need Teacher Grants, which awards educators $100 to $500 to finance creative classroom projects. Additionally, Office Depot offers the Star Teacher Program, giving educators discounts on classroom supplies and coordinating teacher appreciation events. You can find similar offerings from a number of other for-profit organizations, including Staples, Barnes & Noble and OfficeMax.
The United Federation of Teachers is a labor organization with over 200,000 members. Although the UFT represents teachers, nurses and other professionals in New York City, educators from across the country can benefit from its resources, particularly its website. The UFT website features lesson plans, workshops and current events useful to any teacher. Additionally, UFT constantly scours the Internet for grants, awards and freebies, which include many national programs.
Inspired by 1995 film Mr. Holland’s Opus, which tells a fictional though powerful story of a music teacher’s impact on his high school, this foundation seeks to promote music education in K-12 schools. It does this primarily through the donation of both new and refurbished instruments to schools, music programs and students. The good done by the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation also extends beyond just music class, as quality music programs help to increase student attendance and even test scores. Donors interested in contributing to the foundation can give gently used music instruments.
Sponsored by the National Environmental Education Foundation and the Weather Channel, Classroom Earth is a program aiming to improve environmental education in the classroom, thereby improve the condition of the planet. Classroom Earth seeks to increase environmental literacy primarily through its website, which helps educators incorporate green elements into their lesson plans and makes a wealth of information available for students to access directly. The site also catalogs grants and funding opportunities for when the moment comes to apply environmental learning to doing.
An international nonprofit, Teachers Without Borders strives to do more than address the material deficiencies that students and instructors face; it strives to create a community. With over 7,000 online members and tens of thousands of offline ones in more than 180 countries, Teachers Without Borders aims to facilitate the transfer of effective teaching skills to beyond the classroom so that all learners the world round can benefit. It works toward this goal through a number of programs, including teacher training, workshops, conferences and educational initiatives for students.
Some of the best nonprofit organizations aren’t the ones that directly offer you some benefit, but the ones that help you give back. It’s an important lesson, and one that you can teach students through programs like Pennies for the Planet. An initiative of Together Green, which was founded by Audubon and Toyota, Pennies for the Planet is a nationwide campaign that raises funds for critical conservation efforts by encouraging children to collect and donate small change. Involvement in the program is a great way to get students learning about the environment, ecosystems and wildlife, and can ignite a lifelong passion to make a difference.