We were recently contacted by Ms. Lerro, an 8th grade English teacher in the Bronx. Ms. Lerro has been a DonorsChoose.org teacher since 2008. Throughout the years, Ms. Lerro and her students have been touched by the generosity of one donor: Rai. A complete stranger who attended the school herself, Rai has become the “classroom guardian angel” to Ms. Lerro and her students. We spoke with Rai and Ms. Lerro to hear how this special bond was created.
From Rai: I came across DonorsChoose.org by accident. Several years ago I was listening to a story on NPR – the only detail about which I remember today was the pictures of, and thank you notes from dozens of kids who benefited from someone’s frequent donations to DonorsChoose.org. The story struck a chord.
I believe in public education but I have also seen the devastation that New York schools have suffered since I was a student. I wanted to do what I could to help. I discovered that IS 303 is located in the school building (PS 82) where I attended kindergarten and junior high school.
I was taken by Ms. Lerro’s postings. Her enthusiasm and dedication to her kids very much reminded me of Lana Greene Speyer, my 7th grade teacher and the person whom I credit with helping me to turn my life around. Every time I help Ms. Lerro’s kids, I am doing so in honor of Ms. Lerro, her colleagues, and all the teachers who spent their careers teaching kids that there is a world beyond Macombs Road.
From Ms. Lerro: I teach at a small middle school in the poorest school district in New York City. My school is a wonderful place, warm and nurturing and rigorous, but we are always short on funds. When I heard about DonorsChoose.org 8 years ago as I began my teaching experience, I was reluctant to take the plunge.
I thought that donors had to be friends and family members, and I just didn’t think I knew enough people to make my projects come to life. Still, desperate to get my students the books and supplies they needed, I posted a few projects. To my surprise, complete strangers funded my projects, my students had access to the same materials as their more affluent peers, and I became a hard-core DonorsChoose.org-er.
As the years went by and my tally of projects grew, I noticed that one name came up over and over. A donor named Rai seemed to have adopted my classroom! With each project, she left notes like “I went to this school years ago and wanted to help”, or “I want to give back in honor of great teachers I had”. It was clear that even though we had never met, Rai’s connection to our school was personal.
That connection goes both ways. With each new project she sponsored and each new round of Thank You cards they drafted, my kids felt a little closer to Rai. They made her homemade cards and were proud to write her with news of their latest accomplishments. Eventually they started calling her our “classroom guardian angel”.
When adults care about kids, kids take notice. The gifts we have gotten from Rai and other DonorsChoose.org sponsors are not just supplies in hand for my students; they are tangible reminders that there are people out there rooting for them, and depending on them to succeed. As a teacher, it is wonderful to count on Rai and donors like her in my effort to close the achievement gap. The citizen-philanthropists mean so much to keeping my classroom going at a high-level pace.