What This Teacher Does When Her Students Can’t Afford Pens And Paper

At Forest Park Senior High School in Baltimore, there are few resources to spare. Students can barely afford pens and paper.

That’s why Brooke Grams, a high school teacher who specializes in journalism, yearbook and library science, turns to DonorsChoose.org for help. On the DonorsChoose site individuals can donate directly to classrooms. Grams has funded several projects this way, including a school newsletter, titled “A Walk In The Park.”

Grams started using DonorsChoose about six years ago, when she had the idea for the newsletter. She needed paper to print the publication, but her school didn’t have any extra. 

“We have no budget for anything,” said Grams, who previously worked as an attorney before switching to education. “Students come to school without pencils and papers. Forty percent of our students live in group homes.”

Courtesy of Brooke Grams
Brooke Grams is a teacher atForest Park Senior High School.

Twenty-five of Grams’ classroom projects have been funded through DonorsChoose. The site’s community has helped Grams to get her students cameras, tripods, pens, notebooks, clipboards and multicultural books. The supplies have enriched her journalism and yearbook classes, providing an outlet for students’ voices during a time when students needed desperately to express themselves.

Allison Shelley/Getty Images
Policein Baltimore several days after riots broke out after the death of Freddie Gray.

Grams’ school is located about a mile and a half away from the mall where city riots broke out in April after Baltimore resident Freddie Gray died in police custody. In the days following the uprising, Grams and some of her students and fellow teachers took to the streets to clean up the debris. In the fall, she took her students to an art exhibit showcasing images from the uprising, and had her students write about how they made them feel. 

“The images from the Baltimore events make me feel sad, because I never thought things like that would really happen,” wrote one 10th-grade student. “I thought those days were over, but it was very uncomfortable, especially over social media and the news coverage. Knowing there were fires burning right up the road was really hurtful. I thought the world was about to end, I just kept walking around the house nervous.” 

“The riots changed my life because they made me realize that certain people do not care about us. I think it is crazy that some people can just look at you and claim you’re no good,” wrote a ninth-grader. 

Grams’ student newsletter tries to directly combat these negative images, and focus on community successes and school pride.

“They have so much hope and promise,” says Grams of her students. “I really love the kids.” 

This post is part of #BestSchoolDay, a national fundraising movement to ensure students have the supplies and opportunities they need to succeed. Visit here to see a map of all the classroom projects being funded and join more than 50 actors, athletes, entrepreneurs and philanthropists in supporting classrooms across America. To join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #BestSchoolDay.

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