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Fueling up for the future

School budgets to benefit from Chevron gas purchases


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - McKinley Elementary School special education teacher Susan Bomber helps Ariana Marquez with a word association exercise using the class smart board, an interactive whiteboard that can be touched. Through Donors Choose and the Fuel Your School drive, Bomber's class has received funds to purchase new classroom eqiupment that she may have otherwise had to purchase herself.As an experienced public school teacher and instructional assistant, Susan Bomber realizes she’s not unique in spending her own money for learning accessories, games or treats to enhance her students’ classroom experience.

That tends to happen when the school supplies budget for the entire school year vanishes before the end of summer vacation.

“We have $200 for the year, which we spent before school started,” says Bomber, a special education teacher at McKinley Elementary School. “If there are things you need, you can make a request. I hesitate to make a request if I can find the funding elsewhere.”

That’s where donations — from parents, citizens and other organizations — become crucial.

A collaboration among an online charity, local schools, a major oil company and local gas stations is helping teachers overcome strained schools budgets and provide students with supplies, accessories and treats to help classroom lessons come alive and students to thrive.

As part of its “Fuel Your School” program, the Chevron Texaco corporation has teamed up with DonorsChoose.org, an online charity that facilitates donations to schools and school districts. To fund projects, area teachers post on DonorsChoose.org between Sept. 1 and Nov. 30. Chevron will donate $1 to the projects for every 8 gallons of gasoline purchased at participating stations in Washington County during October. The oil giant committed to donating up to $350,000 for projects in Washington and Multnomah counties.

Launched four years ago as a pilot program in California, Fuel Your School has grown into a $7.2 million investment involving 14 U.S. markets, including Oregon, said Brent Tippen, a Chevron spokesman at the company’s headquarters in San Ramon, Calif.

“Teachers post their projects onto DonorsChoose.org, where community members or companies go in real time to fund the projects,” he explains. “The teacher decides what he or she wants in the classrooms, whether its science equipment, books — whatever the teacher thinks will help the learning experience.”

Fuel Your School brought on Multnomah County to its roster for the 2012-13 school year, and recently added Washington County.

“We have business operations there in Portland, and a base of employees there in the area,” Tippen says of Chevron. “We decided to expand into that market because there is a need, and a desire to help students and teachers in the area.”

Bomber has two projects on DonorsChoose.org based on her classrooms at McKinley, whose population derives from a designated high-poverty area.

A project based on writing readiness, $326 short of its $492 goal as of Tuesday, calls for items including Boogie Boards, speciality pencils, adapted writing paper and bubble timers. A newer, second project with a $2,347 goal emphasizes science, technology and mathematics principles and requires test tubes, goggles, eye droppers, interactive software and headphones.

A Bethany-area resident and mother of four children, Bomber has used DonorsChoose.org to fund classroom projects for years.

“You have the ability to ask for what you need and have huge community support,” she says. “I don’t feel like you should sit back and wait for people to give you something. You need to be an active participant in the DonorsChoose process.”

Even before Chevron stepped in, the website bore fruit with an outpouring of community-based support.

“We have a lot of parents who donate, and that makes a difference,” Bomber says. “It’s nice when we don’t have to spend our own money. I’m a single mom. Whatever I provide to the school takes away from my own children. It’s a choice we make.”

Bomber, one of four McKinley teachers in the school’s structured routines center, admits changing her gasoline-buying habits in anticipation of Fuel Your School’s $1 per 8-gallon pledge.

“I always bought gas wherever it was cheapest until I found out what Chevron was trying to do,” she says. “I will continue to go there because they’ve made a difference.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - McKinley Elementary School special education teacher Susan Bomber reads a picture book to her class. Through Donors Choose and the Fuel Your School drive, Bomber's class has received funds to purchase new classroom eqiupment that she may have otherwise had to purchase herself.



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