Twelve years ago, I began teaching history at Wings Academy, a public high school in the Bronx. My new students and colleagues were awesome, but I could see that the school where I was teaching did not have the same resources as the schools I'd attended.
At my old high school, we went on field trips; we had graphing calculators and were given the supplies to do just about any art project. We did not want for anything.
Not so for my students in the Bronx. As their teacher, I saw first-hand that all schools are not created equal.
My colleagues and I spent a lot of our own money on copy paper and pencils, but we often couldn't afford the resources that would get our students excited about learning. We'd talk about books our students should read, a field trip we wanted to take, or a microscope that would bring science to life.
I figured there were people out there who want to help our students, if they could see where their money was going. So, using a pencil and paper, I drew a website where teachers could post classroom project requests and donors could choose a project they wanted to support.
Twelve years later, DonorsChoose.org, has channeled educational materials to seven million students, the majority from low-income communities and many of whom are learning English as a second language. Our site has connected more than 950,000 donors and will help bring more than $47 million in resources to classrooms this school year. This support is helping to offset the more than $1.3 billion teachers spend on their classrooms nationwide.
We're proud of the calculators, microscopes and books that we've delivered to 253,000 teachers across the United States. But there's still a lot of work to be done, especially in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.
While roughly 75 percent of our nation's high school students are not proficient in mathematics when they complete 12th grade, the U.S. Dept. of Labor projects that 15 of the 20 fastest growing occupations in 2014 will require math or science to successfully compete for those jobs. Successfully competing in the global economy means that our students must have the requisite skills for the occupations of the future. School budgets are tight. Many teachers, without dipping into their own wallet, do not have access to materials that are critical to improving interest in STEM education and that bring difficult concepts to life.
It's going to take a lot to strengthen teaching models in STEM education and Chevron has been a champion for STEM education and teachers for quite some time. Since 2009, they have supported more than 500,000 students through their partnership with DonorsChoose.org. This year Chevron has expanded its Fuel Your School program to nine communities across the United States. Through this innovative funding mechanism, Chevron is contributing up to $5 million to fund eligible public school classroom projects posted by teachers on DonorsChoose.org based on fuel purchases at Chevron and Texaco stations that occurred in October.
Asheleigh Pelafigue, a kindergarten teacher at Pierre A. Capdau Elementary in New Orleans, shows how Fuel Your School impacts education at the classroom level. She recently received hands-on science materials that were lost years ago during Hurricane Katrina. Now she can teach her kindergarten students about biology and how to use science tools to observe, experiment and learn. In addition to Mrs. Pelafigue's project, Chevron's Fuel Your School program has already funded 4,311 other classroom projects across the country that will impact 556,545 students.
Visit www.fuelyouschool.com to see the materials teachers have requested in your area and which schools have been impacted by your gasoline purchases. Right now, we have the opportunity to help more students get the materials they need for a great education and to prepare them for the STEM careers of the future.
Follow Charles Best on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CharlesBest