Education Partnership helps bring supplies to South Pittsburgh schools
October 3, 2017
By Margaret L. Smykla
Schools begin the new academic year with basic supplies for students, but run out.
"The Education Partnership (TEP) mission is to give kids the basic school supplies they are missing year-round," TEP community partnership coordinator Laura Ley Carlson said.
Founded in 2011, the non-profit organization became Southwestern Pennsylvania's first teacher resource center distributing school and classroom supplies at no cost to students and teachers in need. It relies on individual and corporate donations and volunteers.
Ninety-five cents of every donated dollar goes directly to supplies for children. In addition to money, supplies may be donated.
Here is how it works: Twice a year, each teacher in a "partner school" may visit the 32,000-square-feet TEP warehouse, or resource center, in the West End and choose up to $1,200 in supplies for his/her class, such as pencils, folders, notebooks, pens, crayons, markers, glue sticks, and tissues.
"Some call us the 'food bank of school supplies,'" she said.
Only partner schools, which number 100 and serve 42,000 students in six counties, are eligible for the supplies. To be a partner school, 70 percent or more of a school's students must qualify for the free and reduced federal lunch program.
In the South area, partner schools include Pittsburgh Arlington PreK-8, Pittsburgh Grandview PreK-5, Pittsburgh Whittier K-5, Pittsburgh Roosevelt PreK-5, Pittsburgh South Hills 6-8, Pittsburgh Concord K-5, and Pittsburgh Phillips K-5, among others.
"They offer school supplies that, under a tight budget in the city, lets up free up money for extracurriculars, and eases the burdens on families.
"We use it all – we use everything we get, and nothing goes to waste. Teachers really appreciate all of it," he said.
Besides public schools, the eligibility extends to religious, private, and special needs schools.
"The only filter is poverty," Ms. Carlson said.
All of the children in the class a teacher chooses supplies for receive items regardless of a student's financial status.
"We don't like to single out kids. We're sensitive to different economic backgrounds.
"All of our schools have a very high need," Ms. Carlson said.
Students also benefit through TEP's Adopt-a-School program in which a community, church, or corporate "team" adopts a partner school through a donation based on a school's population.
A portion of the donation goes to maintain the resource center warehouse.
After the money is raised, team members visit the warehouse and assemble "Power Tools Homework Kits" designed to reinforce students' classwork at home. Members may insert hand-written notes of inspiration and encouragement.
The kits are then distributed by the sponsors to students personally at an in-school assembly for the entire student body.
Currently, 13 of the 100 partner schools are adopted.
"The goal is to get all schools adopted," Ms. Carlson said.
Each year, the adoption process begins anew.
Last year, Jane Zoltun, of Zoltun Design in South Side, donated $1,000 to the program.
"It is important to me to help children with educational needs in an area where I do business. As a responsible business owner, I want to be supportive of the community," she said.
This year, she donated $1,500. About $8,000 is required to adopt Pittsburgh Phillips.
"I hope others step up and donate also so we can adopt the school," she said.
Mr. Calvert is confident another assembly, like last year, will be staged at Phillips thanks to the new pledge by Zoltun Design.
"It creates a community partnership so our families really feel supported," he said of the program.
To make a donation, contact Ms. Carlson at Laura@TheEducationPartnership.org.