For the second annual Sponsor A Classroom
We asked, you stepped up!
Because of your support, we were able to sponsor 275 Kindergarten through 3rd grade classrooms in Montcalm and Ionia Counties.
(218 Full Sponsorships and 57 Partial Sponsorships)
As any educator can tell you, there never seems to be enough money to adequately outfit a classroom. Many teachers make up this disparity out of their own pockets.
Fortunately, for the past couple years teachers in Ionia and Montcalm counties have had a little help in the form of The United Way’s Sponsor a Classroom program. According to local United Way Executive Director Terri Legg, the organization recognized the need and then researched the most effective way it could help.
This year by partnering with local businesses, organizations and individuals UWMI had a goal of sponsoring each and every elementary school K-3 classroom in both Montcalm and Ionia Counties to help our local teachers obtain any supplies they may need - whatever they may need. A sponsorship of $100 helps to provide items that will assist our local teachers as they enhance their classrooms to create strong learning environments for our children. Each $100 donation sponsors one classroom.
“We randomly sampled teachers to find out what they needed in their classrooms,” Terri Legg said. “Repeatedly, teachers told us that they did not need more paper and crayons. Teachers told us over and over that they needed other things for their classrooms, such as hand sanitizers, snacks, tissues and other learning aids.”
Based on that feedback and the size of the United Way’s local territory — 12 public school districts, some more than a 90-minute drive from the organization’s headquarters — a plan was developed to provide teachers with the cash, then allow them to decide on and purchase the supplies they needed most.
“It allowed teachers the flexibility to get what they really need,” Legg said.
Legg also noted Sponsor a Classroom is a local effort and not part of a nationwide program. This was something she and her peers felt made sense for the communities served within Montcalm and Ionia counties. However, its popularity and success has prompted other United Way chapters to explore similar programs in other areas.
Legg stressed that 100 percent of the money raised goes directly back to the schools. Last year, using social media and email to advertise the effort, United Way raised $22,100 in just four weeks. Legg is hoping to better that figure this year.
“My ultimate goal is to extend the program to all elementary classrooms in every school located in Montcalm and Ionia counties,” Legg said. In the first day of our program this year, we have 15 classrooms sponsored. That’s a great start.”
Last year, many teachers used the money as soon as it was available to purchase needed supplies; others spread it out over the course of the school year, waiting to see which supplies would run low and require replenishing. United Way places no restrictions on how teachers use the funds.
According to Legg’s research, teachers typically spend about $480 of their own money to provide supplies for their classroom each year. With ongoing state changes to the rules surrounding school finance, many schools no longer receive the per-student funding they once did; this puts even further pressure on teachers to provide for their students out of their own pockets.
The problem is widespread, but can be particularly vexing for rural districts, which may be experiencing declining enrollment.
“We are a rural community where approximately 50-percent of both counties are one crisis away from financial disaster,” Legg explained. “That means that many families are not able to provide extra supplies and that is OK, because that is where United Way comes in to help.”
Legg said she was impressed with the creative ways in which teachers spent last year’s donations. At St. Charles Elementary in Greenville, eight teachers pooled their funds to purchase a new reading program for their students. An Ionia school teacher bought three special chairs to help “fidgety” students participate in class without being a distraction to others.
Many other used the funds to purchase food for hungry kids.
100% of your contributions went directly to the teachers and sponsorships are tax deductible.
100% of your contributions goes directly to the teachers and sponsorships are tax deductible.