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DonorsChoose.org, Gates Foundation and Stephen Colbert Team Up to Support Teachers and Promote College Readiness for All

“Double Your Impact” program to fund 50 percent of teachers’ classroom projects aimed at promoting college readinessNEW YORK, April 21, 2009 — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and DonorsChoose.org, the online charity that connects individual “citizen philanthropists” with classrooms in need, today announced a landmark grant that enables DonorsChoose.org to fund up to 50 percent of the cost of individual classroom projects developed by teachers to promote college-readiness among students in high-need and underserved urban and rural public schools.
TV personality Stephen Colbert, a DonorsChoose.org board member, moderated the event where the announcement was made.  “Double Your Impact” will be funded with a $4.1 million investment from the Gates Foundation and is expected to support more than 17,000 classroom projects, touching more than 300,000 students across the nation.  By enabling DonorsChoose.org to contribute half of the required dollars, the grant helps to incentivize individual “citizen philanthropists” to donate and accelerate the process of fully funding projects.  DonorsChoose.org enables teachers to describe specific educational projects for their classrooms and individuals to choose which projects to fund. This approach has been effective in funding projects in high-need and underserved schools.
“Teachers across the country are creating classroom projects and lessons that engage kids in creative and innovative ways.  Generous citizen philanthropists, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s invaluable support, are making sure they have the materials needed to spark the passion for learning,” said Charles Best, founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org.  “This grant helps us drive attention and contributions to projects aimed at preparing kids to succeed in college.”
“DonorsChoose.org supports teachers in a truly powerful way—engaging the public in support of teachers and the innovative energy they bring to the classroom,” said Vicki L. Phillips, director of education at the Gates Foundation.  “We hope this partnership will give citizen donors an added incentive to support projects that empower public school teachers to help prepare students to graduate ready to succeed in college and beyond.”
Today’s event was held at Manhattan Bridges High School in New York City, which has benefited from three teacher-submitted projects funded through the “Double Your Impact” initiative.  Manhattan Bridges serves new immigrants and English Language Learners – historically academically-challenged demographics – and has consistently posted graduation rates significantly higher than the city average, in part due to its tailored programming for students.
“DonorsChoose.org allows people from all walks of life to help specific classrooms directly,” said Stephen Colbert.  “As I endeavor to protect our children from bears, DonorsChoose.org is protecting public school kids from classrooms that lack the materials necessary to rigorously prepare them for college.”
While many organizations raise funds for basic school supplies, the DonorsChoose.org model supports specific classroom projects that are submitted and designed by any public school teacher in the U.S. to further defined educational goals.  Under the “Double Your Impact” initiative, the requests eligible for 50 percent funding from DonorsChoose.org through the grant from the Gates Foundation are those that promote college-readiness.  Such projects include student trips to college campuses as well as classroom books, SAT/ACT preparation materials, and other resources that strengthen the learning experience.
“DonorsChoose.org has helped provide the additional materials, such as college essay prep books, that can help teachers like me create programs that are targeted to the unique needs of our students and get them really excited about learning,” said Elizabeth Smith, a teacher at Manhattan Bridges High School.  “My goal is to create opportunities for my students to learn in innovative, inspiring ways.  This has made all the difference in what our students believe they can achieve.”
DonorsChoose.orgFounded in 2000, DonorsChoose.org is a nonprofit website where public school teachers describe specific educational projects for their students, and donors can choose the projects they want to support.  After completing a project, the donor hears back from the classroom they supported in the form of photographs and student thank-you letters.
To date, 88,000 public and charter school teachers have used the site to secure funding for $30.3 million in books, art supplies, technology, and other resources that their students need to learn. Through www.DonorsChoose.org, individuals from all walks of life have helped 1.8 million students from low-income families.
Bill & Melinda Gates FoundationGuided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and Co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett. Learn more at www.gatesfoundation.org.
For broadcast-quality sound bites and footage from today’s event and information about the foundation’s work, please visit www.gatesfoundation.org/press-room/Pages/news-market.aspx.

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