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Wasserman Foundation Gives Local Schools Exactly What They Need

Teachers in Mar Vista are getting requests fulfilled through gift cards the foundation is giving LAUSD parents to help them fund classroom projects.

Elvia Perez, a first grade teacher at wants a new rug for her classroom.

To get it, she’s turning to Donors Choose.org, along with teachers throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District. The website is targeted at increasing philanthropy by giving donors the ability to choose specific projects and build a stronger connection to grantees, has been around for a while, but teachers in LAUSD are using it like never before because of a recently announced grant from the Wasserman Foundation.

The foundation has pledged $4 million to LAUSD and charter schools over the next two years. In the interest of encouraging more parent and community involvement in school fundraising, Wasserman partnered with DonorsChooseLA.org to give every parent of an LAUSD student a $15 gift card for use on the site. Parents can go to the website and find a project they want to support with their gift cards. The hope is, they will also contribute some of their own money to fulfill the projects’ budget requests.

Later this winter, the Wasserman Foundation will distribute more of the $15 Donors Choose gift cards to customers at participating Starbucks stores in the region, “enabling them to become an education micro-philanthropists and engage with their public schools in a simple, accountable and personal way,” according to a statement.

Teachers all over the district are beginning to take advantage of this opportunity. Here in Mar Vista, it’s catching on.

Perez says she was motivated to look into Donors Choose by the Wasserman grant, “I personally like the Donors Choose format and I wish I would have done it a lot sooner,” she said.

Perez had a simple request, that donors fund a new rug for her classroom. The one they have is old and decorated with brightly colored games, which Perez says, are distracting for the kids.

She explained that after submitting her request and getting approval from Donors Choose, “it had the option to post on Facebook, Twitter, and email to encourage more donors and spread the word. I decided to post it on Facebook and asked friends to repost my link. To my surprise within minutes I already had some donations and friends and family members reposting my link. My project was also chosen by the Wasserman Foundation to match my donations!”

Perez says, “Many times parents and community members want to help but don't know how or can't purchase big items alone. This is a great way for everyone to pitch in and really get something that is needed.”

Walgrove teachers have posted high and low-tech requests, including tablet computers and wireless printer for “small group work,” a set of thesauruses for a class so that students “can continue to expand their academic vocabulary.”

One teacher, Mrs. Ramierz is requesting software for her classroom’s Smart Board.  Her request says she wants programs, “that focus on reading literacy, comprehension, math skills, and science concepts.”

teacher, Ms. Merva is asking for a class set of 30 subscriptions to "TIME FOR KIDS" magazine to help them "begin to learn about current events and the world around them."

Ms. Bhatt, another teacher at Grand View who has many English language learners is requesting, “six handheld digital recorders with headphones” so that her students “can use them individually to listen to themselves practicing new words and putting them into sentences. They can hear themselves trying out more complicated sentences. They can hear themselves read to build expression and intonation. They can practice reading what they've written out loud. “These activities, she says, “will help give them confidence in their abilities to use academic English.”

At , Mr. Gomez wants a laptop so his students can conduct online research. And Ms. Zubiri, who helps budding journalists at Venice High is requesting “a good camera to take photos for the school newspaper and website.”

At Venice Animo Charter, Ms. Wang is requesting copies of Hamlet and Frankenstein, both print and audio books so she can introduce her students to these classics. She states in her application, “For those who struggle with Shakespearean language, the No Fear Shakespeare edition provides a side-by-side translation of Hamlet from Elizabethan English to modern English. Similarly, the Frankenstein Graphic Novel presents the original text in a fresh, visually appealing way.” 

Most area schools have at least a few projects listed, but it seems that teachers are just beginning to catch on. Perez, the Walgrove teacher looking for a new rug says, “I didn't know that parents had received Donors Choose gift cards and now that I know I strongly encourage everyone to use them. I also encourage teachers to sit down and request something that their students truly need.”

Megan Ocampo February 03, 2012 at 03:32 AM
Wasserman Foundation is dishonest. There are many "gift cards" my students parents have that haven't been used. The foundation states that the 4 million has been spent. Why did they hand out so many cards then? My husbands starbucks gift card is also useless. It is suppose to expire in March. PROMISES, PROMISES. I bet the accountant and Wasserman receives more than the LAUSD grant. Maybe the IRS should check your books.
maria February 07, 2012 at 06:02 AM
I am very disappointed with this donation. I am left to wonder who really benefitted from this donation. I am sure some teacher projects got funded but still so many more went unfunded because someone made some miscalculations with the funds. How did they determine each parent could get $15 if they weren't sure they could honor them? Why would they choose a site like "donorschoose" a so called "non-profit" organization that ends up charging $109 service fee? Is that where 1/4 of the donation went? It just doesn't add up for me. I am very disappointed and I am sure I am not alone.

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