Choosing Kindness In The Classroom

This past Wednesday, Cynthia and I made our way to the DonorsChoose.org offices here in Manhattan. Starbucks coffee in hands, we both arrived on time at the front door of their building, so excited for what was about to happen. Born This Way Foundation and DonorsChoose.org have been working for months on ways to work together to promote mental and emotional wellness in public schools, and the day had finally arrived to announce the initiative to do just that – appropriately titled “The Mental and Emotional Wellness Challenge.”

To properly kick off the partnership, Cynthia sat down with Charles Best, CEO of DonorsChoose.org, at their offices to host a Facebook Live broadcast where the Challenge would be explained to the world. As they got settled in front of the camera, we all quickly realized that if this partnership doesn’t work out, they both would have promising careers ahead of them as morning TV show anchors. Tell me I’m wrong:

Fortunately, the partnership is going to work out. If you haven’t heard of DonorsChoose.org, you are missing out on something incredibly special. Users on the site can choose classroom projects they’d like to donate their money to. Once that project is fully-funded, DonorsChoose.org purchases all the items needed for the project and ships them to the school. It’s an incredible platform to help make teachers’ and students’ educational needs and ideas to improve their schools happen, and it’s also an incredible way to involve people on the outside who just want to see them become a reality.

The Mental and Emotional Wellness Challenge is truly unique. In fact, it’s the first of its kind to support this category of emotional wellness projects on DonorsChoose.org. Plus, the Challenge will double the donations to teacher-led projects falling under this category and TRIPLE student-led projects of the same (up to $500). Not only that, at the end of the campaign, Born This Way Foundation will select the five projects that best demonstrate the importance of mental health, decrease stigma around the issue, and teach students practical skills to support their mental and emotional wellness. At the end of the challenge, the 5 most innovative teachers will receive a $5,000 DonorsChoose.org gift card.

While the details that were laid out during the broadcast are incredibly exciting — I couldn’t help but notice the map behind the two of them as they chatted. Right before the interview started, Charles gave us a quick tour of their space, and Cynthia and I were fascinated to learn that same map provides real-time data on projects happening across the country.

It hit me: these projects can happen anywhere in the US. Students and teachers won’t have to rely on their school districts’ approvals or state budgets’ allowances to make these ideas a reality. They can happen right now – regardless of location.

Mental and emotional wellness is not relegated to only certain parts of the country, or even certain individuals for that matter. We all have a need to support these aspects of our lives, and students should have every opportunity in schools to learn about and foster them.

Cynthia and Charles wrapped their conversation, and she and I said our goodbyes to their lovely team. Once we got to the elevator, Cynthia and I jumped for joy. For us two proud born-and-raised West Virginians in the middle of Manhattan, we couldn’t believe this was happening. Together with DonorsChoose.org, Born This Way Foundation is making mental health support and education available to everybody, right now.

Check out their conversation below and learn more about the projects YOU can support at DonorsChoose.org.