Not Every Low-Income Student Who Makes it to College makes it through College

20121223-171847.jpg

Today, The New York Times shared the stories of Angelica, Bianca and Melissa, who despite being academically prepared for college, faced other obstacles that have hindered them from obtaining their degrees. These stories are not atypical. I’m afraid they continue to disproportionately affect students from low-income households because of what Maslow describes as “safety needs” aren’t met. I know that there is more we can do to support our students in selecting the right colleges to fit their circumstances and ensure they graduate once they get there.

Check their stories below:

GALVESTON, Tex. — Angelica Gonzales marched through high school in Goth armor — black boots, chains and cargo pants — but undermined her pose of alienation with a place on the honor roll. She nicknamed herself after a metal band and vowed to become the first in her family to earn a college degree.
“I don’t want to work at Walmart” like her mother, she wrote to a school counselor.

Weekends and summers were devoted to a college-readiness program, where her best friends, Melissa O’Neal and Bianca Gonzalez, shared her drive to “get off the island” — escape the prospect of dead-end lives in luckless Galveston. Melissa, an eighth-grade valedictorian, seethed over her mother’s boyfriends and drinking, and Bianca’s bubbly innocence hid the trauma of her father’s death. They stuck together so much that a tutor called them the “triplets.”

Low-income strivers face uphill climbs, especially at Ball High School, where a third of the girls’ class failed to graduate on schedule. But by the time the triplets donned mortarboards in the class of 2008, their story seemed to validate the promise of education as the great equalizer.
Angelica, a daughter of a struggling Mexican immigrant, was headed to Emory University. Bianca enrolled in community college, and Melissa left for Texas State University, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s alma mater.

“It felt like we were taking off, from one life to another,” Melissa said. “It felt like, ‘Here we go!’ ”

Four years later, their story seems less like a tribute to upward mobility than a study of obstacles in an age of soaring economic inequality. Not one of them has a four-year degree. Only one is still studying full time, and two have crushing debts. Angelica, who left Emory owing more than $60,000, is a clerk in a Galveston furniture store.

Each showed the ability to do college work, even excel at it. But the need to earn money brought one set of strains, campus alienation brought others, and ties to boyfriends not in school added complications. With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.

The story of their lost footing is also the story of something larger — the growing role that education plays in preserving class divisions. Poor students have long trailed affluent peers in school performance, but from grade-school tests to college completion, the gaps are growing. With school success and earning prospects ever more entwined, the consequences carry far: education, a force meant to erode class barriers, appears to be fortifying them.

“Everyone wants to think of education as an equalizer — the place where upward mobility gets started,” said Greg J. Duncan, an economist at the University of California, Irvine. “But on virtually every measure we have, the gaps between high- and low-income kids are widening. It’s very disheartening.”

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

Read more of For Many Poor Students, Leap to College Ends in a Hard Fall

How can we ensure that students who make it to college, make it through college?

Advertisements

The Impact of Low Expectations in K-12 Education

Reading Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent post in the Miami Herald, Don’t lower the bar on education standards, reminded me of Darryl’s Robinson’s piece, I went to some of D.C.’s better schools. I was still unprepared for college, published in the Washington Post earlier this year.  Leonard and Darryl are both two different people.  They are from two different generations; their age difference is a couple decades.  But they both share a common narrative that many students who attend low-performing schools experience once in college:  The realization that you did not receive an adequate k-12 education.  It has nothing to do with how intelligent you are or what your mind is capable of learning, but it has all to do with where you were born and the school you attended.

Leonard began his piece by describing the time in college when he realized his SAT score was not as great as as he thought:

As I recall, I scored 960 on my SAT. This was good enough for second best in my class and many congratulations and backslaps from teachers and administrators. Based on that, I thought I’d done pretty well.

So I’m in college, right? Freshman year, and I get to talking with my roommate, this white guy named Reed, about our SAT scores. Reed’s kind of sheepish, finally confessing that he scored “only” about 1200.

That’s when I realized I had not done pretty well. I had done pretty well for a student of John C. Fremont High, in the poverty, crime and grime of South Los Angeles. I had done pretty well for a black kid.

At Leonard’s high school, his SAT score was good.  Maybe Leonard could have scored higher, but one thing Leonard knows for sure is that it stung when he listened to his roommate that day and became aware that his great score was not so great after all.

Then there’s Darryl.  Darryl wrote a piece about how he struggled at Georgetown University because he was not prepared for college rigor.  Here’s what he had to say:

But after arriving on campus before the school year, with a full scholarship, I quickly felt unprepared and outmatched — and it’s taken an entire year of playing catch-up in the classroom to feel like I belong. I know that ultimately I’m responsible for my education, but I can’t help blaming the schools and teachers I had in my early years for my struggles today.

Even though I attended some of the District’s better schools — including my high school, the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, at the Parkside campus near Kenilworth — the gap between what I can do and what my college classmates are capable of is enormous. This goes beyond knowing calculus or world history, subjects that I didn’t learn in high school but that my peers here mastered long ago. My former teachers simply did not push me to think past a basic level, to apply concepts, to move beyond memorizing facts and figures.

Darryl pushed the education reform dialogue to confront the watered down curriculum offered in a vast majority of low-income public schools.  It makes everyone confront the educational offerings we allow in one community and the ones we give another, and how this ultimately inadequately prepares our college-hopefuls to feel successful in college.

Then there’s me.  My freshman year in college, I had to take remedial math because I was not prepared for college-level mathematics.  Not many people know this, but I failed that course my freshman year.  It was devastating for me.  I never cried so much in my life.  I did not even know how to tell my parents.  I was ashamed.  It was the first time I felt like a failure.  I graduated top 10 in high school, served as vice president of the honor society and was class president all four years of high school, and here I was receiving my first F in a remedial math course.  It made me question my academic abilities, but it also made me realize that the education I received was not good enough.

Leonard’s, Darryl’s or my story is not unique.  There are many students like us who attend public schools every day.  The first time we realize that we did not receive a rigorous, college-ready education is when we enter college.  Leonard’s piece focuses on Virginia and Florida’s decisions to create race-based achievement goals for students.  And Darryl’s focuses on ensuring students can think read, write and think analytically to best prepare them for college.  Like Leonard, I too, wonder just what effect lowering the bar will have on the education students attending schools like we did will receive.  Like Darryl, I advocate for a rich curriculum because I know from experience that my students will need in college.

Leonard, Darryl and students like myself are capable and ultimately end up being successful in life.  In college, we challenge ourselves to persist despite our shortcomings and end up achieving academically.  So ask yourself, if we are able to catch-up while in college, then why isn’t more being done to ensure that we are better prepared?  Some say students in low-income schools cannot achieve at the same levels of their high-income peers or some are too far behind to ever catch-up.  Leonard, Darryl, myself and countless others prove them otherwise in college and in life.  We graduate and make our families and communities proud.

I know that we can give children a rich and engaging k-12 curriculum that ensures that the stories of Leonard, Darryl and myself won’t continue to be the experiences of students who attend schools that primarily serve students from low-income backgrounds who enroll in college.   Let’s not lower standards, but ask ourselves the following question:   How do we create schools that produce critical thinkers and problem-solvers that naturally yield high test scores and our world’s best and brightest leaders?  If these same students can do it in college, surely our schools can do a better job of bringing them up to par in k-12.

Read Leonard’s piece here and Darryl’s here.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Many of My Friends Didn’t Attend College

college

My high school has the lowest college-going rate in rural Cumberland County, N.J. This is the same rank the school had when I graduated in 2004 and it’s the same rank it has now. So when I read a recent post on Education Week by Sarah Sparks titled, “Why Do Academically Promising Students Not Choose College?” I was immediately reminded of my high school. Many of my capable peers did not attend college or some enrolled in less prestigious institutions for a variety of reasons. Nevertheless, the reason I work in the field of education is because I’ve always believed in my peers and in students who attend schools like the ones in my hometown. I know that their life’s outcomes do not need to continue a path of poverty. With community and school supports, they can stop the cycle of poverty and put their family on the path to achieving the America Dream.

Sarah’s piece highlights a recent Harvard Study that reveals sheds light on the reality for students attending high schools like the one on my hometown. Many of them could go to college, but instead choose not to. Here’s what she had to say:

[Researchers from Harvard’s Center on Education Policy] found that, of students who showed academic potential;as judged by their cumulative high school GPAs and math and verbal SAT scores—18 percent enrolled in less-selective four-year colleges, two-year institutions or no higher education at all. Moreover, students who chose less-selective colleges were less likely to continue through to earn a diploma.

“These are people who are clearly poised for success and are not clearly moving into it,” said John Fullerton CEPR’s executive director. “That could be because some high schools are not preparing academically kids who were high performing, and so they slip back during high school, or others might not provide the support for students” such as college selection and financial aid guidance needed to plan which college to attend, he said.

“This is particularly true of kids from lower economic backgrounds. Going to a college just because it’s local or cheap may not be the best decision, because if you are more likely to drift away and drop out, that will have long-term economic consequences,” Mr. Fullerton said.

Mr. Fullerton was spot on in describing many of my peers experiences. Sure, I was bright in high school, but so were many of them. There’s no reason why some of them did not go straight from high school and into four year colleges. We sat in the same honors classes or some chose to take a less challenging route and enroll in college prep because they were not pushed to excel to their fullest potential. Their ability to achieve mirrored mine, but our life’s took us down two different paths.

My friends and I would discuss college in high school. Once a month, a few of attended Talent Search–a partnership with the local Community College that exposed us to college. We were excused from class for an hour and our Talent Search Coordinator would teach us about the application process and taking the SAT. During Spring Break, those of us who could afford it, went on a trip to college tours. For many of us, Talent Search was our ticket out of Cumberland County. I will never forget when I had the chance to go to California the first time. It was part of Talent Search’s Spring Break trip to tour University of Southern California in Los Angeles and other schools. Yet, for many, Talent Search was not enough to sway the hold their environment and family circumstances had in shaping their life’s path.

I knew, and I wholeheartedly believe they knew they were more than capable. However, it was difficult to crack their tough exterior and help them believe that attending college was their doorway to success. By the end of our four years, many of my friends and peers did not go on to college or some went to the local county college, dropped out, or re-enrolled and graduated many years later. Like Mr. Fullerton said, some of my peers didn’t have the proper guidance to navigate the application and matriculation process. If no one in your family has gone to college, and it’s not the norm for students to go to college in your hometown or high school, applying to college can be frightening. I am lucky to have a father who is a guidance counselor by profession at a school in the neighboring town who could support me in the process. My peers, although intelligent, did not have that support.

Moreover, some didn’t believe they had the financial means to go to college. Again, I had a father who knew FAFSA like the back of his hand. He could also help me apply for scholarships. I will never forget during my senior year, I would spend hours at the computer writing scholarships essays and preparing these unique scholarship packages with all of my accomplishments. During my senior year, I decided I wanted to attend the University of Maryland, and my dad informed me that since it was out-of-state, I would have to work really hard to pay for it. I ended up receiving 18 scholarships, two of which were four year and the rest were enough to pay for my entire first year of college. I was fortunate to have my dad to make a sometimes overwhelming process for a high schooler be one that was paved with love. For my peers who did not come from that family background, trying to figure out how to apply and then how to pay for college was a daunting task.

Nevertheless, a child’s family’s background or economic status should not determine the life they envision for themselves. That’s why I would take it a step beyond Mr. Fullerton’s reasons of lack of knowledge of the application process and financial aid, and also assert that tracking done in high school and the high school’s college-going culture both play a significant role in a young person’s decision to attend college or the colleges that make it on a student’s college short list.

In my high school, students were put on different tracks. Each year, we selected classes that were either on the honors, college preparatory, or general education track. Although, my high school has a low college-going rate, the number of students who were on the honors track who attended college was quite high. Since our freshman year, we were supported and guided on the track to college. My friends who attended these classes with me are now successful in various sectors. One of my friends is a journalist, another recently graduated law school and working in the legal department of a Fortune 500 company, another is a high school guidance counselor, and another is on her way to graduating with her Masters in Social Work. I wonder just how many high school students are missing out on the chance to go to college because they’re tracked in high school?

There are a lot of out-of-school factors that sway many students’ decision to attend college. Nevertheless, there is much that schools can do to put more students on the right path. I believe that if my high school really invested more students outside of the honors track in going to college from the ninth grade, and put in comprehensive supports to help more students apply and matriculate into college, the college-going rate of my high school would be much higher.

What do you think? Do you think high schools, specifically that serve students from low-income neighborhoods, do enough to push students who walk the tight rope of achievement and mediocrity? What is your high school doing to create a college-going culture?

Let me know your thoughts and be sure to read more of Sarah’s piece in Education Week.

Neighborhood Pressure: The Neighborhood’s Impact on a Child’s Decision-Making

ImageRecently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a group of fifth graders.  Over time, we’ve developed quite a relationship where they feel comfortable opening up to me about things happening in their lives.  Often, we adults do not ask children what situations they face.  Maybe it’s because we tend to be in denial or maybe we don’t want to tackle those problems head on or maybe we just get so busy that we don’t ask children these real life questions.  Nevertheless, children are being pressured into deviant behavior whether we want to admit it or prioritize discussing it with them.

As the children I spoke to opened up, they told informed me that their peers were encouraging them to participate in illegal activities, and that sometimes they were equally as guilty for pressuring one of their friends or siblings to do the wrong thing.  For them, it is part of what they do in childhood.  You go to the store on the corner before or after school and stuff packs of gum and Now &  Laters and Hot Cheetos in your pockets.  When questioned by store staff, you blatantly lie so that now it just feels comfortable to be dishonest.  “Sometimes you do tell the truth,” said one child.  He then recalled a time he was accused of theft.  “The store cashier told me to be honest or else he would call the cops.  So I told him, ‘Yes, I did steal, but it’s because I’m poor and I cannot afford it.'”

As I listened intently to these real life accounts, it brought me back to my childhood.  I never had to shoplift for clothes at Old Navy in the local mini-mall in my county, but I absolutely remember people in my peer group doing it.  In an attempt to keep up with the changing trends and their parents lack of income, they risked getting arrested for a “best dressed” reputation.  I also remember instances where people would steal from the 711 and get into verbal spats with the employees.  More importantly, I remember where some of my peers ended up, and as my fifth graders share their lives with me, I wonder just how can I combat the neighborhood’s influence on their decision-making?

In schools across America, we teach character building through scenarios that happen on the school grounds such as playing fair on the playground, learning how to share materials during centers, or not pushing in line.  But I’m afraid we miss the perfect opportunity to bring up decisions our children face outside of school walls.

How are we preparing them to face their older brother or cousin who pressures them to smoke weed?  What about drinking a parent’s alcoholic beverage that was left unopened in the refrigerator?  These are also example of negative choices that the children I’m getting to know brought up.  Our children are constantly asked or pressured to make poor life choices on their block.  These choices can serve as gateways into even more negative behavior that could happen later in life.

Furthermore, in middle school I was involved in S.N.A.A.P (Students Notifying Adolescents About Prevention), and in elementary, middle and high school I participated in Youth to Youth.  Both of these programs helped me to combat the neighborhood and media’s influence on my decision-making.

Today, while chatting with the fifth graders, I was able to spew facts I learned about cigarette smoke and underage drinking at a young age.  They had no idea smoking cigarettes fills lungs with tar or that alcohol is a poison that can make them extremely sick, and that when adult gives them alcohol, it’s a crime.  Kids should receive all this information early on–in age appropriate doses–but definitely not sugar-coated.  On the streets, it’s not sugar-coated, and they certainly are not skipped over peer pressure because of their age.  It’s time we have this conversations or else deal with the consequences of having their peers or media lead them down the wrong path.

My questions to you:

  1. How do we get this information back into schools?
  2. Is this even being taught in health class at the late elementary level?
  3. What role do schools play in helping children make the right decisions, not just in school, but in life?
  4. How can schools address the type of pressure our kids face when they leave the grounds?  What has your school done to bring up these types of issues?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Can Our Children Have It All? The Case for Diverse Schools

20121205-232938.jpg

Heather Harding and I approach the education reform movement using a similar lens: as parents. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Darla, you don’t have kids. How can you view education through a parent’s eyes?” Well, first of all, I view my students as my children. When I contemplate just what solutions I support to create better schools, I think of the type of learning environment I want for my own children. Each education policy decision created now has a direct impact on the learning experiences of my future kids. So when I read Heather Harding’s piece posted on Teach For America’s Pass the Chalk Blog, I immediately could relate with her sentiments.

Heather wants her children to attend diverse schools that prepare them for a global world. Like Heather, we are not satisfied with schools that mostly educate low-income black and Latino youth. In our ideal world, our children would attend schools with children from varying socioeconomic levels and diverse backgrounds. However, we realize that accepting schools as segregated now–even if they are high-performing–is not the way to give our kids the best education.

In Heather’s piece, “Breaking Down the Persistence of Segregated Schools,” she calls out the elephant in the room of all education reform conversations. She forces us to have the difficult conversation about how important diversity, in many aspects, is an important part of the learning experience, and how so many people are sweeping it under the rug.

Every time I see a story about high-performing urban charter schools where 98% of the kids are black or Latino, I get queasy. I worry that while the academics at these schools are superior to their peer schools, they lack what most middle-class parents want in an education—world-class academics in an environment that provides the social capital necessary to be successful in an ever-more-diverse world.

When we relegate some kids to a singular racial and cultural experience but extol the virtues of our growing global society, we are decidedly not closing the achievement gap. As a parent who enthusiastically embraces school choice, I cannot accept that common response to calls for racial desegregation in our urban charter schools: “Well, should I turn these poor kids of color away in favor of non-poor white kids?” My answer is likely to be “Maybe.” I want it all: quality education and diversity. This is the only recipe for true excellence. We shouldn’t settle for less.

Is Heather asking for too much? I don’t think so. I’m glad someone is courageous enough to bring it up. How about you?

Read more of Heather’s piecehttp://www.teachforamerica.org/m/blog/breaking-down-persistence-segregated-schools.

Mississippi’s School to Prison Pipeline

20121205-225319.jpg

Colorlines recently published “The Shocking Details of a Mississippi School-to-Prison Pipeline,” which gives readers a peak into the serious injustice happening in the state. Check out an excerpt below:

Among the infractions that landed Green, who is black, in juvenile detention were talking back to a teacher, wearing long socks and coming to school without wearing a belt. He was behind bars for stretches of time as long as two weeks, and the real rub, his mother Gloria said, is that weekends didn’t count as days served. A 10-day suspension stretched to 14 actual days; time for Meridian juvenile justice officials apparently stopped on weekends. All that back and forth out of school and in juvenile took a real toll on Green’s education, and he was held back from the eighth grade.

“It was mind-boggling,” Gloria Green said. “My son loved school and to be kicked out as much as he was, one year he just couldn’t catch up.”

“We did everything we know to do. I went over to the school and got make-up work, and he still failed two subjects and at that point I didn’t know which way what my child was going to go.”

“We talk about the school to prison pipeline and it’s often an abstract thing,” said Shakti Belway, an attorney who worked closely with families on the Meridian case for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “But here it is literally happening over ridiculous, minor charges.” Indeed, children as young as elementary school students have been taken directly from school and forced to serve school suspensions inside a jail cell. In its complaint, the DOJ charged the city’s police department with operating a de facto “taxi service” shuttling students away from school and into youth jails.

In parts of Mississippi, the extreme measures to curb minor infractions in schools are labeling youth and putting them on a path to confinement. As educators, we must be thoughtful in how we invest children in school policies in order to create a positive learning environment.

Reading the stories highlighted in this piece bring me back to my childhood experiences in school. I’ve had family members and peers become victims of the judicial system at early ages. We must support children, not use excessive force to encourage them to want to learn at school. Effective relationship building by partnering with mentorship organizations, an appropriate ladder of consequences, strong school wide culture initiatives and student support staff are just a few ways schools can meet the needs of all students.

In my experience, I learned that my most challenging students are the ones who need the most love and guidance. Their disobedience is a cry for help. Spend more time with them and steer them in the right direction because shoving students into the judicial system is a sign that we’ve given up on them. We cannot give up on our kids. The kids are our future.

Read more about what’s happening in Mississippi http://m.colorlines.com/archives/2012/11/school_prison_pipeline_meridian.html.

First Book-DC Featured in Local Spotlight

I co-lead First Book-DC with Angel McNeil–an early childhood curriculum guru and instructional coach!  Recently, Angel and I had a chat with Jalisa Whitley, founder of Non-Profit Help, LLC, to discuss a variety of things centered around our experience with First Book-DC.  Here’s one of the questions and responses:

Tell me a little bit about your path into First Book, what sparked your passion for literacy?

Darla: I found out about First Book as a corp member with Teach for America in New Orleans.  I participated in a professional development workshop on nonprofit board leadership, and the presenter was a woman who ran First Book’s local advisory board in New Orleans.  As a teacher, I saw the benefit of the program.  I taught third, fourth, and fifth grade English and Social Studies in a “failing school,” and was faced head on with the reality that so many kids cannot read or do not have the basic phonemic awareness and foundational skills to propel them to be critical thinkers and readers in later grades. I had to purchase many supplies out of pocket and I found that I could not afford all of the books and educational supplies that were required in order to ensure that I met the needs of my students.

My personal experience as a teacher really sparked my interest in First Book because the organization supports teachers and nonprofit organizations working to fight illiteracy and put quality resources into classrooms. I initially joined the First Book board as a volunteer board member without a title. I had the opportunity to learn from board members of various ages in a variety of different roles. When I made the decision to move to Washington, D.C.I knew I wanted to be a part of the First Book board here, but found that it had dissolved.

The previous DC board was run by members of Sun Trust Bank’s Mortgage Department. Unfortunately, the previous board fell right along with the mortgage department during the crisis. During my transition from New Orleans to D.C. I stayed in touch with the national First Book organization and they ended up tapping me to lead the effort to establish a new First Book board in DC. As a result of my previous volunteer work and involvement, I was able to transition into a formal leadership role when the opportunity presented itself.

Angel: I have been in education for about six years and it is easy to get wrapped up in work, so I wanted to find a meaningful way outside of work to give back to the community that had provided me with so many great opportunities. I found out about First Book while doing a Volunteer Match search where I found a listing for a position on the Advisory Board. It aligned with my beliefs in terms of literacy and providing resources to children and I had the opportunity to begin as the DC board was in the process of re-launching.

Access to resources was never an issue during my childhood, my parents read to me every day. I loved to read, a fun day for me was going to the library and I was always known as the girl with books in her backpack. So, finding out that many underprivileged schools lacked resources was shocking to me. Access to outside resources is essential for children to learn how to read and write, especially in a time when libraries are closing down, teachers aren’t equipped with the funds to constantly purchase books, and the top priorities of parents may not be going to Barnes and Nobles to buy books.  I know how far the books and resources I’ve been given have taken me in my life and I want that for all children.

Check out more of the spotlight here.  Follow @FirstBookDC on Twitter! LIKE us on Facebook.

Recap: Buying Books on My Birthday! \o/

 

I made a wish for public schools. Now I can't tell you exactly what, or else my dream won't come true. :)

I made a wish for public schools. Now I can’t tell you exactly what, or else my dream won’t come true. 🙂

For the second year in row, I used my birthday to give for good and benefit an organization where I volunteer my time:  First Book-DC!  This year’s Literacy Movement raised over $1,400 to provide book grants for teachers and literacy programs serving children in need.   Held on November 9th, at Ulah Bistro on U. Street, my birthday friendraiser brought together over fifty young professionals in the DC Metropolitan Area united to fight illiteracy.

My friend and founder of Capital Media USA, Garrett James, served as the night’s photographer and wrote a great piece on the event.  Check out pictures on his website and amazing recap.  Below is a snippet:

Quick Story: I grew up in the great state of North Carolina; home of chopped BBQ (not that ‘pulled’ stuff yall northerners eat), tobacco, and some of theeeee BEST universities this side of the galaxy. And with that, we also have/had pretty good public schools systems. So when I came to the DMV and heard that public schools had a different reputation, I wasn’t happy about it but I understood how that could be. What bothered me most then and even today, was knowing that some kids didn’t have books to read at school or at home. Like really? How can we have high expectations for youth if we don’t prepare them properly? It was challenging for me to accept. It seemed like a hyperbole statement someone created to make a point, but it’s not; it’s true. Even now, it bothers me and it bothers Ms. Bunting also. This is one of the reasons she supports First Book; she’s also the Co-Chair with Angel McNeil.

Darla shared some of the org’s model with me recently: “We give out book grants to teachers and nonprofits serving children in need twice a year–once in the fall and spring.  Since we are volunteer-led, 100% of your donation goes to our book grants.   First Book has partnerships with major book distributors like Harper Collins and Barnes and Noble, so our book grantees use their grants to purchase books for at significantly discounted prices.  The average book costs $2.50 on the First Book Marketplace.  Your donation goes a long way. Once the teacher or nonprofit receives the books, they use them in the curriculum, and then the books become the property of the kids.” #winning

Check out the full post here and browse around Garrett James’ site while you’re there!