In the fall, Maya Jha and Sareena Shah, both sophomores at Walter Payton College Prep, began a discussion on FaceTime about how they believed their education would suffer because of remote learning.
“That conversation led us to realize we were the lucky ones, because we wondered how students with lesser access to technology and supplies would fare,” says Jha.
On that FaceTime call, a business plan for the Re-Write It Project was born. The Re-Write It Project, which recently filed for nonprofit status, provides underserved students around Chicago access to quality learning resources imperative towards unlocking their fullest academic potential.
What is the Re-Write It Project?
The organization, run by 16 high school students, collects new and used supplies, refurbishes them and packs them into bulk supply kits, which are distributed to students in need. To date, the Re-Write It Project has donated 1,300 supply kits – or about 35,000 supplies.
Chicago is home to some of the most segregated schools in the U.S, which often leads to opportunity gaps for students of color who often receive reduced access to educational resources and quality teaching.
Illinois has one of the most inequitable funding systems in the country. Because school funding is largely determined by property taxes, districts with fewer needs receive more funding, leaving low-income students with less access to educational resources and advanced curriculum materials.
The Re-Write It Project, Jha says, takes supplies off the hands of people who don’t need them, making sure they don’t go to waste.
Those with new or used supplies (school, art, electronic) can easily drop these items off at donation collection centers across the city – many in libraries, bookstores, and art stores. Volunteers then collect and refurbish the supplies using COVID-safe protocols before they are packaged into supply kits.
“Our masked volunteers sort the materials by type and do everything from sharpening pencils to ripping used paper out of notebooks,” says co-founder Jha, who has established partnerships with organizations like Brown Books and Paintbrushes and Erie Family Health Centers to reach students in underserved communities.
“This process has opened my eyes up to the fact that I’ve always grown up with access for the appropriate resources to pursue everything,” says Jha. “The Re-Write It Project wants others to have those same resources and opportunities for academic success.”
How families can help
Jha says one of the most beautiful things about the Re-Write It Project is that it provides an outlet for families to get involved in the community when traditional volunteer opportunities aren’t an option due to the pandemic.
“Children as young as 2 can help,” she says. “It is a great bonding experience for a family, as they can pick and choose to do simple tasks at their own pace.”
Families can visit the Re-Write It Project’s website to sign up to volunteer in the following ways:
- Donate your time! Join The Re-Write It Project to become a volunteer and refurbish old supplies.
- Pick up supplies from donation locations.
- Drop off supplies to schools and families.
For more information, follow the Re-Write It Project on Instagram.
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