I have never been to Staples more than the year I lived with two teachers. After graduating college, I lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with two of my best friends, who were teachers with the program Teach for America. Both of them worked in elementary schools in Harlem, where the basic needs of some students, like hunger, safety, and hygiene were sometimes not met. While these new teachers worked hard to help their students overcome adversity, they also used a chunk of their small salaries to supplement their classroom supplies. We spent a few weekends decorating their classrooms into learning oases for their little students’ minds to seek refuge. I remember being surprised how many basic school supplies these teachers had to buy on their own though: papers, pencils, and tissues. How can you teach kindergarten without these? So when their schools couldn’t afford them, these teachers made frequent pilgrimages to Staples to get as many supplies as they could carry back to their schools.
That was twelve years ago and I had hoped that the state of public education funding had improved, but I recently learned that we were in very much the same place in Philadelphia now. Friends who are sending their children off to public schools in Philadelphia in the next weeks have back-to-school supply shopping lists that include 2-4 reams of paper. That’s right, each child is expected to BYOPaper. What do they need all of this paper for? Writing, art, math, letters home to parents, and report cards to name a few things. These are not luxuries.
So when I heard that my friend Sibyl of Hipster Henry started a non-profit called Philly Paper Jam, I was so excited to see creative problem-solving for this ongoing issue. After touring schools as part of her annual school survey, Sibyl realized that she could use her marketing talents to help local schools meet their paper needs for the year by partnering with local business as sponsors. She picked 15 schools where she had a standing relationship and then the Philly Paper Jam website is holding a contest to vote for the next 15 schools to be funded in this inaugural year. Altogether, 30 schools will have a year’s worth of paper delivered to them through the generous donations of sponsors, who can donate to support a single class or a whole school. Due to bulk purchasing for many schools (and the kindness of Staples and W.B. Mason), Philly Paper Jam is able to bring down the costs for the schools, so sponsors can support an entire school for $1,800-4,000, depending on the school size.
Often schools meet their paper needs by holding fundraisers and supply drives. Imagine what that money could be used for if the schools already had paper? With the money saved by the Philly Paper Jam donation, schools can divert this budget into other needs and projects. Adaire, one of the first 15 schools funded, has promised to start a STEM program and their Philly Paper Jam sponsor is going continue their partnership with additional money toward this goal. I love that schools, teachers, and parents can spend less money on paper and that they can instead fund programs to enhance their curriculum.
Since Philly Paper Jam is in its infancy, there are still many ways you can help:
1. LIKE the Philly Paper Jam Facebook page. This will help show potential sponsors how important this organization is and bring in more donations.
2. Make a donation!
[I have no affiliation with Philly Paper Jam or Hipster Henry. I am interested in supporting our public schools and raising awareness for organizations who share this goal. I donated to my local public school.]