Comedian Stephen Colbert announced Thursday that he would fund every existing grant request South Carolina public school teachers have made on the education crowdfunding website DonorsChoose.org.
Colbert made the announcement on a live video feed Thursday at a surprise event at Alexander Elementary School in Greenville.
Colbert partnered with The Morgridge Family Foundation ‘s Share Fair Nation and ScanSource, which is headquartered in Greenville, to fund nearly 1,000 projects for more than 800 teachers at over 375 schools, totaling $800,000.
“Using the proceeds of the sale of my old set on The Colbert Report which we auctioned off, and with the generous matching funds from The Morgridge Family Foundation and ScanSource, DonorsChoose is going to flash-fund all 1,000 projects in South Carolina,” Colbert said. “Enjoy your learning, South Carolina.”
Damon Qualls, a teacher at Alexander Elementary School in Greenville, joined Colbert for the surprise announcement in New York. Qualls has had 126 projects funded on DonorsChoose.org, including five projects from today’s announcement.
The event was attended by local and state school officials, including state schools Superintendent Molly Spearman.
“There are going to be some happy, happy teachers across the state,” Spearman said. “This is Teacher Appreciation Week, so what a great way to say ‘thank you teachers for what you’re doing every day.'”
Grants will fund everything from new books to classroom supplies, school-branded clothing or professional development for teachers.
“I think it’s generally extra things, but to be honest with you, in some situations it could be basic-type things that the students need where the district just hasn’t been able to fund it,” Spearman said.
“There’s a great need out there and thankfully Stephen Colbert is from South Carolina,” she said.
Alexander Elementary has been central to the promotion of DonorsChoose.org projects in South Carolina. The small, Title 1 school on Greenville’s Westside surpassed $100,000 in grants funded earlier this year and now has received more than $125,000 for supplies and experiences through DonorsChoose, said Principal Sonya Campbell.
Hitting the $100,000 mark kicked off planning for Thursday’s announcement, Campbell said.
Campbell asked each teacher at Alexander to write at least one grant request this year. Now every teacher has had a project funded, she said.
DonorsChoose and ScanSource surprised teachers and hand-delivered some gifts Thursday.
Beth Bailey, Alexander’s school librarian, picked through a cardboard box filled with new books for a girls reading group she had hoped to start.
“These girls, they’ve been asking for this one for weeks,” she said, holding up a paperback. “To have this in our library is huge and it’s just promoting reading in so many ways. We’re so grateful.”
ScanSource helped bring then-fledgling DonorsChoose to South Carolina in 2005 and offered tech support, helped them set up their office and offered advice on how to structure the nonprofit as it grew, said Christy Thompson, vice president for worldwide marketing for ScanSource, a worldwide distributor of specialty technology products.
Since 2005, 13,000 South Carolina projects worth more than $5.6 million have been funded through DonorsChoose.org.
It was natural to partner with them again on this project, she said.
“We’re hoping this day will not only do this amazing thing for these 1,000 classrooms, but it’s also going to create a lot of awareness for DonorsChoose,” she said.
“Teachers have the responsibility of going online, starting their projects and asking for funding, but it’s really everybody’s responsibility to go and look at those projects and help fund, so today is about that as well,” she said.
For more on what teachers in Greenville are getting for their classrooms, go here.
For a complete list of funded projects for all schools in South Carolina, go here.