November 30, 2020

A second cycle of applications is now underway.

The DPS Foundation’s A to Z Fund Classroom Grant for Teachers provides materials, resources and opportunities that have a lasting impact on students, but fall outside classroom budgets. Since its inception in 2006, the A to Z Fund has awarded more than $2 million to schools.

While COVID-19 has changed so many things about where and how students are learning, it has not changed the dedication of our teachers or the need for funding to support their innovative ideas for expanding learning. This year, the educators who received A to Z Fund grants have shown us ideas for creative learning and a dedication to inclusion and equity like never before.

In past years, the A to Z Fund often supported activities that occur outside of the classroom, such as field trips. Now, in the place of traditional field trips, we have seen an array of applications that tell remarkable stories of our schools, educators and students. While some grant requests still supported the needs for school supplies and after school activities, others focused more on creating intentional equity for all students during the pandemic. They included innovative ideas for remote learning, academic support programs, live streaming software, engaging online programs for English language learners, and supplies for community resource centers to help address the deep economic impact this crisis is having on many of our school communities.

Recognizing the unique needs of students this year, applications that addressed racial equity received additional points on their scoring rubric, which led to increased funding. One exciting example of an application that met this criteria was the creation of a mentor program for Black students at Cowell Elementary, a school that only has one Black teacher.

Educators at Cowell Elementary used their A to Z Fund dollars to bring in a Black male mentor to provide a role model and positive racial identity to their Black students. Studies show that if a Black student has a Black teacher in their life, they have a much greater chance of graduating from high school. And while Cowell has a small population of Black students, they only have one Black employee.

The mentor, Kellis Parker, developed lessons with one of Cowell’s educators specifically for the six classrooms with Black students. He then met with the classrooms separately on a monthly basis and met with the Black students from each classroom individually or in small groups a few times each month. Small group topics were determined based on students’ needs. The project impacts not only the learning experience of these students, but it positively impacts their racial identity, academic motivation and their actions. “I hope to help these students expand their mindset and see that they can achieve anything in life,” Mr. Parker said.

With your support, the A to Z Fund can continue to support ideas and programs that celebrate the diversity of our students and be a driving force in helping to eliminate barriers to foster a more equitable future for all our students.