Thinking "Responsibly" About Education

Poverty, crime, hunger and homelessness are just a fraction of the issues that plague America today. After graduating from CMC, two alumni teamed up to explore the causes of our nation's problems. What did they discover? A lack of education. Stuart Felkner (’10) and Antoine Grant (’07) decided it was time to find out more about America’s educational system and what could be done to help make it stronger. In April of last year, members of “responsibly” took a tour across America to learn how the budget crisis is affecting teachers and students in the classroom. They spoke with over fifty educators, and they soon realized that many of those teachers ended up spending $2000-$4000 of their annual income on classroom materials. Despite these teachers' selfless efforts to increase their classroom budget, many creative activities fail to leave the drawing board simply due to a lack of funding.

This is where responsibly comes in. Felkner and Grant established a non-profit specifically designed to help connect patrons with dedicated teachers in need of resources for interactive educational activities. While reflecting on his own education, Felkner noted it was these experience-oriented projects that “made knowledge come alive and gave [him] the opportunity to apply what [he] learned in the classroom,” thus they are crucial to the educational process.

Responsibly uses a crowdfunding platform to fulfill its client's goals. Teachers upload an idea to the platform by creating a movie pitch outlining the project as well as how much money will be needed to fund it. Responsibly serves as a controlled way to tap into both the teacher’s network, the non-profit’s network, as well as government grants for non-profits. After the donation goal is met, patrons are able to view the finished project through a video so they can see where their dollars end up. It also gives teachers and students a chance to thank those who contributed to the entire learning process.

With the help of funding from CMC alumni and other donors, responsibly was able to charter three buses from Oscar De La Hoya Animo Charter School to bring some of its students to CMC’s campus. OSCDLHA is a member of Los Angeles' Green Dot Public School system, an organization that transforms schools into "high-achieving public charter schools that are focused on graduating students and fully preparing them for college." On Wednesday, January 25, more than 150 high school students from OSCDLHA were given the opportunity to experience CMC's campus and talk with our students about applying to college. The overall goal was to get these students excited about higher education and to show them what hard work and dedication in the classroom can help them attain.

Responsibly has already completed several projects, including ones involving CMC alumni and TFA teachers, Sandy Russell and Hunter Jackson. The responsibly platform helped Russell to raise the $623 necessary to take her first grade class on a field trip to the Los Angeles Zoo, and she is currently less than $100 shy of her $663 goal to take her students to the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom and Sooky Goldman Nature Center (WODOC). Jackson has been fortunate enough to raise the $1325 needed for a recreation of the BP Oil Spill, an explosive demonstration of how shifting tectonic plates cause volcanoes, as well as a hedgehog as a class pet.

Grant appreciates CMC’s generosity and hopes that it might lend its resources to continue enriching the classroom experience, which could include a “student tour of the Botanical Gardens, a science experiment in Keck, or flag football on Parents Field.” Both Grant and Felkner hope to expand nation-wide in order to increase utility for what Felkner hopes will become “ultimate tools for teachers.”

For those of you still hunting for summer internships, why not get a head start? Responsibly is starting an intern program to connect “responsibly teacher liaisons” with teachers seeking project funding. These account managers will work with a specific teacher throughout the process, from creating the right video pitch, to networking (what CMCers do best), to participating in the finished project. Some current CMC students are already working with responsibly to help strengthen the educational experience for disadvantaged students.

If you are interested in learning more, check out their company website, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, and even donate to a project to help support these dedicated teachers.