By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Teachers in need of classroom supplies take heed: One national non-profit has stepped in to help fill the resource gap at area public schools – if you’re interested in exactly what they’re offering.

The Generation Project, an online education philanthropy that funnels resources to low-income kindergarten through 12th-grade students, has begun to dole out school goods in New Orleans. Both educators and community members play a part in this initiative: local and national donors choose the gifts, and school leaders select what gifts work for their classrooms.

The kickoff here includes such donated goods as holocaust-related material and Ayn Rand books.

The project is in six cities working with Title I schools, which are defined as having more than 40 percent of their students in the federal free-lunch program. They include Chicago, Detroit and New York. Aside from donors being able to choose their own gifts, another key aspect of the project is ability to track impact, a spokeswoman for the effort said.

“The teacher gives feedback through pictures, video, or stories, and the donors are able to see exactly where their charitable giving went,” project representative Charlotte Hellmuth said.

In a test to gauge area participation, the project held a sign-up event for New Orleans donors in November 2010, and opened the site for teachers and students to gain access in March 2011. After initial success, project coordinators decided to launch officially this fall. Two schools, New Orleans Charter Science and Math Academy and Samuel Green Charter School, have already benefited from gifts funneled by the initiative.

SciAcademy teacher James Lukens, who teaches world geography to his ninth-grade class, said the gifts increased the diversity of materials in his classroom.

“I received dry erase boards, and two other gifts, one being books on the holocaust and holocaust materials, and the other, a set of George Orwell and Ayn Rand books,” he said.

Both of Lukens’ donors were able to offer explanations for their gift selections. Amy Huang, a Teach for America alumna from Chicago, wrote as an explanation for her Orwell and Rand donation: “These authors’ works really helped to shape and clarify my thinking and my values.”

Rachel Perry, a New Orleans resident, said she donated the dry-erase boards “so that your students are better able to do independent and small-group work, and so that you are easily able to do knowledge checks throughout your lessons.”

Lukens found out about the project at a Teach For America summit he attended last year, he said. He sent an email to other teachers at SciAcademy about it, but said that even though it was easy to get the donations once he applied, he felt many teachers at his school weren’t able to take the time out to complete the application.

“Even though it’s not a tough application process, it’s still an added duty,” he said. Although it was a chore for some to sign up, Lukens said he feels the project is a boon that he will use in the future, citing that there are more things that his school needs.

“I would say collections of primary source documents – those are a huge need in the school,” he said. “Aside from that, just schoolwide, we need a lot of nonfiction texts in the school.”

The Generation Project plans to hold another donor sign-up event in early October.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...