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4 Reasons This School Year Was Our Best Yet

Everyone involved with education lives on a different calendar than the rest of the world. While revelers spend December 31st celebrating the end of the year, teachers and students know that the true end of the year comes in May or June. It’s a time to celebrate, reflect, and plan out how to make each year better than the last.
That’s why we always release our annual review at the end of the school year, as we highlight a selection of amazing moments from the past 12 months. In last year’s review, we called out our Broadway debut, Stephen Colbert’s South Carolina flash funding, and our new logo. How were we supposed to top that?
We think we pulled it off, but you can read the full 2015/2016 annual review and decide for yourself. It’s chock-full of awesome moments, but if you are short on time here are our four favorite highlights.
1. #BestSchoolDay
On March 10, we unleashed #BestSchoolDay, a flash mob of support for public school classrooms led by 58 actors, athletes, entrepreneurs, and philanthropists. We called on citizen donors to join Ashton Kutcher, Sheryl Sandberg, Samuel L. Jackson, Serena Williams, Biz Stone, Yvette Nicole Brown, as they funded all the projects in their hometowns.
People responded in droves, making #BestSchoolDay a top trending topic on Twitter, Facebook, and news outlets across the country. More than 30,000 individual donors helped bring 24,000 projects to life.
We just released a graphic look-back at the day, so if you missed out or just want to relive the glory, check it out.
Photo: Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved2. Expansions
At the start of the year we asked ourselves, “How can we reach even more teachers and students?” To achieve this goal, we began three new pilot projects. Here are some fast facts on each program:
Student Led Projects
Until this year, teachers have been in the driver’s seat for the hundreds of thousands of funded projects on our site. Now, students in grades 7-12 can start a project with the guidance of a teacher.
Nearly 3,000 student-led projects have already been brought to life in classrooms nationwide.
Life Essentials
We consistently heard from teachers that students who lack clean clothes, food, and proper hygiene supplies struggle with attendance and focus. This year, select teachers could request clothing, shoes, glasses, food, toiletries, and other personal items for their students. 517 teachers took advantage of the program with great success. We’re refining the program now, and plan to make it sitewide in the fall.
Teacher Development
All of our projects to date have helped teachers invest in their classrooms, but what if we could help teachers invest in themselves? Through teacher development projects, teachers can hone their craft, learn new skills, or even master a new subject.

3. A Huge Milestone
This year, donors and teachers helped us hit a huge milestone: raising over $100 million in a single year. Wow. Please give yourself a round of applause, because that number is astonishing. That money brought books, calculators, robots, tablets, field trips, and so many other tools and experiences to over 3 million students.
“Six years ago, we set a goal that seemed far off on the horizon: Inspiring a million people and partners to give $100 million to classroom projects in one school year, delivering resources to 100% of our country’s high poverty public schools. This year, donors helped us achieve one of those milestones by contributing $104 million to classroom projects.” —Charles Best

4. The Projects
Teachers had over 158,000 projects funded in 2015/2016. We’d love to highlight all of them, but that would take a few days, so here are two we thought were particularly exceptional.
We were left in awe by Mr. Lopez’ project that brought Olympic-class fencing training and equipment to 17 schools in the Bronx. Check out Fund Olympic Fencing Programs at Democracy Prep!
Our team also loved Mrs. Overway’s project to bring a variety of nonfiction books to her Michigan classroom. Check out Engaging Minds Through Nonfiction Texts.

It was a busy year, but we have no intention of sitting back and coasting through 2016/2017. We have big plans for this coming year, so keep an eye out here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to stay up to date on all of our announcements and new programs.

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