By Guest Blogger Karen Hornfeck
When word got out that a tornado had torn through east Greensboro on April 15th and severely damaged three Guilford County Schools (GCS) elementary schools, the staff at Guilford Education Alliance (GEA) quickly mobilized to help in any way possible.
GCS and the Guilford County Board of Education rapidly made a plan to relocate the tornado-affected schools to other GCS school campuses. Over 900 students were affected and Erwin, Hampton and Peeler elementary schools lost everything from books to furniture to school supplies.
That’s where GEA, an independent nonprofit with a mission to support public education, came in. “We were in a perfect position to help,” says Winston McGregor, executive director at GEA. “We have a wide network of community partners who are always ready to provide support to our schools and in this case, we leveraged those relationships to make sure teachers quickly got what they needed to begin to set up their new classrooms.”
In a little over a month since the tornado, over 90 pallets of school supply donations have come into GEA. Donations not immediately used by the tornado-affected schools will help GEA stock the shelves of the Teacher Supply Warehouse. The average teacher spends over $1000 every year of their own money on classroom supplies. The Warehouse is open year-round and offers opportunities for GCS teachers to shop four times a year for supplies at no-cost to help off-set that cost. New and gently-used supplies come in through individual donors, supply drives and monetary donations. “Teachers are always so grateful when they see the wide array of free supplies available to them,” says McGregor. With GCS set to welcome in approximately 600 new teachers in the fall, GEA knows the need for back-to-school supplies will be high and community donations are crucial to meeting that demand.
“Research shows us repeatedly that a vibrant school system sets the stage for sustainable economic growth in a community,” says McGregor. “We want to make sure Guilford County is attracting the best and brightest teachers and that we are supporting them in every way possible.” That support extends to educating the community as well. GEA offers a free monthly speaker series called Let’s Talk Education during the school year that brings in local and statewide education experts who explore timely topics like the science of learning to read and the impact of childhood trauma on education.
“We often make incorrect assumptions about education that shape important policy decisions,” explains McGregor. “With the Let’s Talk Education series, our goal is to offer research-based data on current education topics so we as a community can delve into the most important issues together and come to a common understanding.” The schedule for next year’s speaker series will be published in August and sessions are open to the general public.
GEA also offers regular opportunities for the community to step inside of a public school and see first-hand what public education is like in Guilford County. Events like Community Reader Days at local elementary schools and Principal for a Day, an annual event during which a community member shadows a school principal offer important opportunities for the community and schools to connect and build relationships. “Schools can only thrive with the support of the community,” says McGregor.
To learn more about GEA’s programs or to find out about volunteering or donating, go to www.GuilfordEducationAlliance.org.
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