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An Urgent Effort to Support Student Needs in Response to COVID-19

This week, the Waldron Charitable Fund announced that it will make $1 million in grant funding available to local community organizations that address the critical needs of the nation’s children age 12 and under in the wake of school closures. With 30 million students who receive free and reduced-price meals in the US, this grant aims to fund those organizations that directly support the most underserved students in the country. 

As schools nationwide are closing in response to concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, this initiative will directly fund organizations that deliver critical physical and mental health needs, provide nutritional assistance, and support special education for underserved school children.

The Waldron Charitable Fund is a donor-advised fund housed at the Boston Foundation. It is co-managed by Rob Waldron, CEO of edtech company Curriculum Associates, and his wife Jennifer Waldron, who works with uAspire, a nonprofit organization that removes financial barriers to higher education. Jennifer Waldron is also a volunteer and former board member at Jumpstart, an early education nonprofit organization.

We spoke with Rob Waldron to get his insights on this grant opportunity.

Q: Why did you decide to launch this grant opportunity?

Rob: Jen and I have both worked with schools and education organizations for decades and understand that schools are about so much more than academics. 

Curriculum Associates has a large presence in urban districts and we talk to the educators behind the services that schools provide. I have a deep respect for how educators go above and beyond. For a lot of underserved students, schools are their only source for essential services. They make sure children get regular meals. They provide physical and mental health resources, internet access, laptops—some schools give out clothes, notebooks, pencils. They provide all these things in addition to routine, structure, and stability

Q: When does the application window close?

RW: It’ll close very soon: 5 p.m. ET on Friday, March 20. We’d love to keep it open longer, of course, but we don’t have the luxury of more time right now. It’s essential that we get critical funds to organizations as quickly as possible during this time of crisis. To understand the steps to apply, organization leaders can visit this page.

Q: You ask that applicants, “detail their ability to provide critical services quickly and to as many underserved children in their local community as possible while still providing social distance and safety in light of COVID-19.” Can you elaborate on this and give some examples of what you’re hoping to hear from grantees?

RW: Great question. Because of the tight timeline, we’re asking organizations to keep their applications short and really focused. They should send a PDF (no more than two pages) to WaldronFund@gmail.com. In the PDF, they should briefly describe their organization and the immediate problem they are trying to solve to help kids. We want to know how many underserved children their solution will impact and how they’ll deploy or distribute their solution while keeping kids safe and observing social distance. And given the urgency of the situation, we want to hear how quickly they can act. 

Applicants can put this information in a letter or address each area in separate sections. As long as the information is clear and as thorough as possible within the two-page limit, the format doesn’t matter. 

Q: What kinds of organizations are you inviting to apply for the grants?

RW: We want applications from a variety of 501(c)(3) organizations nationwide! All local community 501(c)(3) organizations that serve children ages 12 and under are eligible for the grant. 

Also, I should clarify that because of government procurement rules, the foundation can’t make direct grant contributions to schools, school foundations, and/or parent-teacher groups. 

Q: What motivated you and Jennifer to designate this grant funding for organizations at this time?

RW: School closings in response to COVID-19 are having a huge and immediate impact on our most vulnerable kids. Considering the underserved children and communities across the nation who are really feeling the effect of necessary school closures, there’s a real urgency to getting resources out as soon as possible. Local organizations, ones that are already ingrained in the communities they serve, are equipped to do this quickly.

We know that we can’t solve all the challenges underserved students are facing right now ourselves, but Jen and I feel it’s our responsibility to do our part. We hope that others will join us in doing what they can to help organizations in their communities. We’re grateful to the leaders and staff of the organizations who are on the ground.

Q: Your company, Curriculum Associates, is also stepping up in this time of great need for schools. Can you share some details about those efforts?

RW: Right, so I think it’s important to say right away that all of our efforts are an extension of our mission to serve classrooms. Above all else, we put service to educators and children first. In unprecedented times like these, we are feeling this charter more strongly than ever. We have the best team in the world, and folks are putting in long days and nights to support teachers, students, and families because they care. There’s no greater motivation than caring deeply. 

We know we can’t replace what’s being lost in light of school closings, but we hope we can help educators in their efforts to ensure learning continues.

So what are we doing? Curriculum Associates has launched a hub, CurriculumAssociates.com/AtHome, where teachers and families can go for free resources to support k–8 learning at home. The site is available in both English and Spanish. It has printable math and reading activity packs as well as tips and tools to guide educators and parents on using our i-Ready Online lessons, Ready Mathematics, and Ready Mathematics Classroom at home. We’re also increasing flexibility with our i-Ready program so more students can access Online Instruction.

Visit this page to apply for the Waldron Charitable Fund grant opportunity before 5 p.m. ET on March 20.

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