Chris Boylan keeps a running list of things needed in his classroom and by his students at George Washington High School.
Most recently, that list looked like this:
- Material to make pinatas, for graduation
- Fish tank supplies, to spruce up the two tanks in his room
- A new whiteboard table, especially useful for the special education students he works with
- Wrestling uniforms, for the school
- New shoes, for all 20 of his kids.
“I had a kid whose shoes were just falling apart,” said Boylan, who works with high school students with moderate to high degrees of special needs.
These are not the kinds of things that Indianapolis Public Schools — a district looking to close schools as one way to address a massive budget hole — has pocket change to buy.
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So, Boylan looks elsewhere. About 12 years ago, he found DonorsChoose.org, a website that allows public school teachers to create projects and request resources their students need.
All five of the projects on Boylan’s “wish list” were active on the site recently when the site was “flash funded.”
Ripple, a San Francisco-based technology company, and its executives donated $29 million to fund every classroom project request on the site. As part of that surprise, Boylan’s projects were among more than 190 from IPS teachers that were funded, totaling $110,109 across the district. Combined with citizen and corporate donations, a total of $122,773 in classroom supplies and resources were granted thanks to Ripple’s gift.
“We are grateful for the philanthropic efforts of Donors Choose and Ripple in support of our teachers and students across the district,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. “This generous gift will fund a variety of projects, such as the purchase of digital cameras and new literacy materials.”
IPS isn’t the only district that lucked out from Ripple’s gift. Teachers in Wayne Townships Schools had 29 projects funded, totaling more than $20,000 in donations to the district.
For Boylan, the gift meant he got an influx of new materials for his students, who have some of the highest needs in the city.
“Now I’ve got to actually make the pinatas with them,” he joked.
He also has to get some new projects up on the site. In the 12 years since he found Donors Choose, Boylan said the days after Ripple’s flash funding might have been the first time he didn’t have an active project on the site.
With these latest projects, Boylan has gotten 81 requests filled, worth around $74,000. He’s taken his kids on a field trip to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, bought cameras, smart boards, coats and more. Looking around his classroom, Boylan said almost everything from the tables and chairs to the goldfish and iPads have been funded through Donors Choose.
“It became clear very quickly, if there were things I wanted for my room, I’d better find some funding sources to get it done quick,” said Boylan, in his 17th year of teaching.
On Wednesday, Boylan already had three new projects up on the site. He keeps tabs of things he thinks his school or students could use. When he’s out of ideas, he asks his students. That’s how the pinata project came to be.
“About half of my class right now is Hispanic,” he said. “We got to talking about celebrations, with graduation coming up. One of my boys said, ‘I hope I get a pinata for graduation.’”
Now, he will. They’ll make them in class.
To donate to Boylan’s class, visit www.DonorsChoose.org/Mr.Boylan
Call IndyStar education reporter Arika Herron at (317) 444-6077. Follow her on Twitter: @ArikaHerron.
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