Adoptions generate thousands for classrooms
By Vicki Sedlack
Kenny Wong, director of the Playworks program at Ruby Bridges Elementary School, has long sought funds to buy new equipment for his program, but has always received the same answer: “There’s no money in the budget.” But on January 26, Wong was presented with a $500 Adopt-A-Classroom check to use as he saw fit.
That day was lucky for eight Alameda classrooms that were adopted as part of the Alameda Education Foundation’s Adopt-A-Classroom program. Adopt-a-Classroom is one of the key programs of AEF, a non-profit that provides funds, materials and volunteer resources to supplement learning at Alameda public schools.
Kiwanis President Scott MacAskill was part of the presentation team for three of the adoptions, along with AEF board members M.J. Brandenberger and Kathie Woulfe, who chairs the program for AEF. The Kiwanis had chosen to adopt the classrooms as part of its mission to “change the world … one child at a time.”
“It’s hard to describe the passion and pride that came with presenting our local schools with the hard-earned money that our organization has raised over the last year,” MacAskill said.
Adoption presentations are made by AEF Board members, who are sometimes accompanied by donors such as MacAskill. It is a rewarding experience for all concerned.
“It is so uplifting to be able to bring some joy into the classroom,” Brandenberger said. “What with the uncertainty of the schools and funding, it is great to bring some good news to the teachers.”
Woulfe is driven by a passion for children and youth and “giving them the same opportunities I had as a child in Alameda.” A 1964 Alameda High graduate, Woulfe says that when she was a student, they “had it all,” with generous funding for the arts, athletics, and classroom supplies.
That’s not the case these days. A 2001 study by the National Education Association showed that teachers in the West spend an average of $539 of their own money annually to supplement classroom learning, a condition that has only gotten worse in today’s world of education cuts.
According to AEF President Bill Sonneman, the Adopt-a-Classroom program enables the community to support teachers and students by directing 100 percent of each $500 adoption to the classroom or program teacher. He said that 75 adoptions totaling $37,500 have been made so far this school year and that adoptions have occurred in every single school in the district.
Students often have creative ideas on how the money should be spent – rabbits and hamsters for the classroom tend to top the list. The funds are used to support learning activities like purchasing critical materials or funding field trips, assemblies or other learning impact programs.
On the day MacAskill accompanied Brandenberger and Woulfe to the three classrooms, they learned that in addition Ruby Bridges’ new playground equipment, a Washington Elementary fifth grade class would use the funds for a field trip to the Chabot Space and Science Center. As MacAskill, Brandenberger and Woulfe left Washington Elementary that day, MacAskill said the appreciation from the teachers and students could be felt “miles away.”
Encinal High School’s Media Center would purchase books that focused on teenagers because, as Media Center teacher Patricia Slattery said, “there has always been literature for children and adults, but the Center was missing books focused on young adults.”
While cheers usually greet the presenters, sometimes it’s tears, such as when a teacher was feeling overwhelmed by the community’s generosity, or when a special education teacher learned he could replace vital materials that had recently been stolen from the classroom.
The Adopt-a-Classroom program was established in the year 2000 by the Bank of Alameda in partnership with AEF as a way to support the community by investing in youth via direct sponsorships of individual classrooms/teachers by individual Alameda businesses. Although businesses and social service organizations remain a keystone of the program, these days more and more families are choosing to adopt their children’s classrooms or programs. Woulfe, however, plans to encourage more businesses to become donors in the coming year.
For more information about the Adopt-A-Classroom program, visit the Alameda Education Foundation web site at www.alamedaeducation.org.