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World Changers: Giva Salutes DonorsChoose.org: A Follow-up

DonorsChoose.org

Giva recently published a blog post saluting DonorsChoose.org. We were thrilled when they sent us a $50 donation voucher to see for ourselves how they work. We assigned this fun and rewarding task to Natasha Gaydos, Giva intern, and here is the summary of her experience:

My Experience with DonorsChoose.org
By Natasha Gaydos

Using a voucher for $50 to donate at DonorsChoose.org, I was able to give back to a community that I love. I received my undergraduate education at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Although I lived on campus and spent the vast majority of my time in classes or doing schoolwork, I learned to appreciate the community around me through volunteering and my part-time jobs. My experiences outside of the bubble of campus-town were among my most cherished. As a result, it was bittersweet to say goodbye to Champaign-Urbana this past May when I graduated.

When I learned I could donate $50 toward funding a school project of my choice, I knew exactly where I wanted to look; Champaign-Urbana where I benefited so much from my education and the community that fostered more than an academic education, but an experiential learning opportunity for personal and intellectual growth. Champaign-Urbana is a microcosm of creative, intellectual and socially conscious citizens; and, as a result, there are just as many wonderful events outside of campus in which I was able to take part. One of my most cherished experiences was volunteering for an after-school program as a recreation leader. The kids I supervised always brought me joy, and often their enthusiasm and zest for life was a remedy when I found myself stressed about my studies and workload.

Using my voucher, I was able to search for projects in the Champaign-Urbana area. One of my best friends from college, who also helped me to get through the rigor of college, is now teaching at Centennial High School in Champaign. While she did not have a project of her own listed on DonorsChoose.org, I was excited to see a project from one of her coworkers, biology teacher Ms. Weidelman. Ms. Weidelman's project on DonorsChoose.org is to fund the purchase of an iPad for her students to use for research and interactive learning. An iPad is a unique learning tool in that it is portable and can be used by multiple students at one time. It can also be used as a projector and presentation tool. Ms. Weidelman explains another important feature unique to a tablet, "If we have an iPad in my classroom we will be able to download and use apps and games like Nightmare:Malaria, Plague, as well as many citizen scientist apps that allow my students to record real time data and add to ongoing professional research."

I could immediately relate to an inability to access Apps from lack of a smartphone or tablet; I found personal resonance throughout her description about the need for an iPad, from my own frustrations, to my reliance on research and data throughout my studies, and of course my value for Champaign-Urbana Schools. In addition, I was excited to learn about the "Nightmare" App which I found particularly pertinent for learning in relation to the devastating Ebola outbreak in Africa, and the residual waves of destruction it had on communities and individuals. This was exciting and pertinent information to me, having just read a New Yorker Article on the research that was conducted to code the genome of the Ebola strain, track its mutations and eventually used to guide the developed ZMapp , a largely successful pharmaceutical drug that has been used to treat Ebola, and also in smaller doses as a vaccine.

Technology is an inherent aspect to modern science and medicine, so it is no surprise that Ms. Weidelman wants to teach her students to use technology in the biology studies. I know the iPad will be a great tool for learning, giving students access to the wealth of knowledge and research on the internet, as well as Apps with interactive learning tools. I was thrilled to be able to give back to the community which provided so much support, learning and fun throughout my undergraduate experience. Like many others, I left a personalized note to Ms. Weidelman and her students to tell them how excited I was about their current learning and all of the potential learning that can come from having an iPad in the classroom.

If you are interested in helping to fund a classroom project, DonorsChoose.org provides virtually endless opportunities to give where your heart is . Finding a project to donate to is easy; you can search using a keyword, by classroom location, class subject, age group, and other categories to refine your search. Donating is just as simple: you can donate using a credit or debit card, Paypal, Amazon payment, mail in a check, or use a DonorsChoose.org giftcard/voucher-code. Each project includes an in-depth explanation of what the funds are going toward as well as a progress bar showing how much money has been donated to said project, and how close it is to being fully funded. Donors know exactly who and how they are helping, and they also can understand the value of their donation when they see the green progress bar get closer to complete after their donation. Donors can donate a minimum of $1 and those who donate $50 or more will receive thank you cards from the teacher and students to whom they donated.

DonorsChoose.org is a great platform that allows people to donate to classrooms with ease. The crowd-funding model is a booming new form of philanthropy that taps into the unique avenues for connectivity and collaboration that the internet offers. Education forms such a huge part of the foundation of an individual, as well as the foundation of our society. It is interconnected and interdependent with our economy, our politics, our environment, our technology, our medicine, and the quality of life of our communities. You can quickly and easily donate to the teachers who work at the forefront of educating our children, siblings, and future leaders by choosing from one of over 25,000 classroom projects seeking funding on DonorsChoose.org.