Two years ago this week, Marion Houser, Jennifer Creadick, Laura Collins, and I were looking for a building to house a dream: a school where children who didn’t learn well in traditional school settings could be successful. After a month of searching, we found one. In order to pay our start-up costs, we proposed a fundraising venture called the 101 Club. We asked 101 people to give $101. They did and the dream became a reality.
As I look at the list, I am moved by the people who gave: church members, former students, the sister of an elementary school classmate, in his memory. Parents of students I tutored, Facebook friends, parents of children whose kids needed this school in the past. Parents of JRA students and their relatives. It truly DID take a village to get this school off the ground, and it takes a village to keep it going.
We started with nine students; presently we have nineteen and we’ll go to 25 next year. Our three classrooms looked like more than enough room; we’ve added a fourth and we’re bursting at the seams. In the beginning we had two full-time teachers, one half-time art teacher, and a part-time administrator. Now we have four full-time teachers, one half-time teacher, a full-time paraprofessional, a half-time Speech and language pathologist/therapeutic educator, and a part time administrator. Our first year we were for third through eighth grades; we’ve since added the ninth grade and next year will continue up through tenth. We have a beta fish named Ozzie, a leopard gecko named Geico, and a fish tank full of various finny creatures. Murray the cat is greeted eagerly by the kids each morning and works to make sure we’re rodent-free each night.
So that we can continue the work we started and so we can continue to take lower income children, we are reprising the 101 Club. We originally chose that number because many people can afford a tax-deductible gift of that size. Some gave numerous times and were super 101 Club members. Some couldn’t give a full $101, and their gifts were gratefully accepted as well. If you gave then, please consider giving again. If you didn’t, please think about making a first time gift that goes to help some struggling kids. You can use the donate button on our website or mail a check to JRA, PO Box 3523, Chapel Hill, NC, 27515. Or, you can hand it to any of our teachers, board members, or parents.
$101 can buy three hardback books, a nice outfit, a ticket for a Broadway show, or a meal in a nice restaurant. It can also help a child experience academic success for the first time. Your gifts got us off to a flying start two years ago. Who knows what they could do now?
On March 24, 2012, Just Right Academy will field students, teachers, and parents in The Great Human Race in Durham. The GHR is sponsored by the Durham Volunteer Center and benefits many area nonprofits. It is a 5K run/walk and provides us, along with over 100 other agencies, the opportunity to raise money for our organization. Our board chair, Lois Batson, along with parent Tricia Budd, have stepped up to chair this endeavor. They attended a Durham Volunteer Center workshop, created our page, and have started recruiting walkers, runners, and donors.
They set an ambitious goal of $25,000. Raising this money would ensure that we can continue to provide tuition assistance to our students. Our goal is that at least a third of our students are middle and low income; we achieved that this year and as we grow, we hope to keep that percentage the same. These students and all our students receive individual reading tutoring if needed, speech and language therapy, intensive social skills coaching, academic remediation and challenge, ample physical activity, and a structured caring environment that helps them feel safe and valued.
We’d love to have you walk or run with us. We’d also love to see your name up there as a supporting donor. Please support Just Right Academy and the children who need our services so badly.
We are adding a fourth classroom this year, and for that we need a new door, circa 1920′s to 1950′s. We are a historical building, so it needs to match the other doors. We can’t go to Home Depot and find what we need, so we call salvage companies and check at thrift stores. Although I’m searching for a door, I keep my eyes open for other needed items too, and I strike pay dirt. Someone has obviously cleaned out recently because I find over 200 paperback and hardback books for our library, including full sets of phonetic readers: cost $38. I move on to Habitat ReStores. Sure enough, at the one in Durham I find a historical, five paneled door, just what we’re looking for, for $30, as well as an 8 foot solid wood work table for my classroom on sale for $40. As I’m leaving, I spot two padded, stackable chairs for the table, $6 each.
Back at school, in preparation for our geography unit, I order two Montessori map puzzles and a set of landform trays from a discount Montessori website: total, $80. I feel like I’ve gotten good value from that one $100 donation: a new door, worktable and two chairs, 200+ books, 2 wooden puzzles and 10 landform trays.
At this point, you are thinking that we don’t do a very good job of teaching math at JRA. But what I’ve neglected to tell you is that during this summer and early fall, each donation is matched by an anonymous donor. So each donation does double duty. And because we often buy used and search out discount sites, your donation gives even more value. Buying from thrift stores is an inflation buster; a similar table retails for over $600 and the chairs are $34 each.
We prefer to find what we need in this way so that we can provide tuition assistance to more students. We are not an exclusive community of learners; we welcome families of all income levels and circumstances. Right now I am working to find funds to offset tuition costs for students who need our services very badly but can’t pay full tuition.
For that, we need your help and your donations. Please consider making a monthly or yearly, tax-deductible donation to JRA. You can give and know that your donation will go far to make a struggling student’s life richer and more successful. We value your gifts and we promise to make them go as far as possible.
Thank you for your help.
This Thursday, December 9, from 4:00 to 8:00 pm, join Just Right Academy at Ten Thousand Villages in Chapel Hill. Ten Thousand Villages can be found at Eastgate Shopping Center at 1800 East Franklin Street and provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. Ten Thousand Villages will give Just Right Academy 10% of the profit on items sold during our shopping event. We’ll have hot cider and cookies and staff will be available to talk about the school. It’s a wonderful place to do holiday shopping while knowing that you are helping Third World artisans and Just Right Academy. See you there!
Our big fall fundraiser, held on Saturday, October 16, from 8 am to 4 pm in the Murphey School auditorium, is a Book sale! Bake sale! Plant sale! Can we raise three months of a scholarship child’s tuition? I think we can. Here’s how you can help:
—We need donations of books, lot of books, all kinds of books. We will have kids, adults, manga, cookbooks, and homeschooling curriculum available. The better the selection of books, the more money we can raise. Please ask your friends to go through their bookshelves and pull out at least a box for us. We all need to do that anyhow.
—We need bakers for our bake sale. We especially need small items like brownies, cupcakes, cookies. We need juice boxes and fruit.
—We need people who can go through our library before the sale and cull our duplicates.
—We need to borrow tables.
—We need people to put up fliers and to help sort books on Friday the 15th, which will be a service day for our students. They’ll be helping too.
—We need workers on Saturday, beginning at 7:00 am.
—We need you to send the information to any list serve or group you are a part of. There will be incredible bargains and people will thank you for letting them know. Really.
—We need parents who can give tours of the school that day.
And most important, we need people who will come and buy!
Thanks for your help
Please join us for our open house on Saturday, August 28, 2010, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. Come hear about Just Right Academy, meet our teachers and board, and see our light-filled classrooms. Come take a spin on the merry-go-round or go down the old-fashioned slide. Or come just to see what wondrous things Jay Miller has done with the historic Murphey School building, now named the Shared Visions Retreat Center. You’ll want to see the pressed tin 12 foot ceilings, the hardwood halls worn by years of students, and that great auditorium, featured in Wednesday’s Independent. And you’ll definitely want to ring the old school bell, now right outside our front door. We’ll have snacks and kid-friendly entertainment.
Please bring a friend who might be interested. If you can’t make it, call to schedule an appointment before school starts on September 7th. Street address is 3717 Murphy School Road, Durham, NC 27705. Don’t trust GPS to get you there the shortest way—you’ll see more of the scenic countryside than you’d planned to. We’re off of old Hwy 10 or you can go north to the end of Cornwallis and turn right onto Murphy School Road. We’re the driveway right before the stop sign.
And we’d LOVE it if you’d bring a box of books you’ve cleared out for our used book sale October 15.
Part of our mission is to have a significant percentage of low-income children. To do that, we need to get the fundraising part of our nonprofit going. So as a jumpstart, we introduce the 101 Club. We are asking 101 people to donate $101 each to help take us through the summer. Of course we will take a smaller or larger donation, but this just seemed like a cool number to go with.
Paypal is available on the website. If you are local, I’ll be glad to pick up a check. Or you can mail it to Just Right Academy, Inc., PO Box 3523, Chapel Hill, NC 27515. Or you can drop it by. We are located at the Shared Visions Retreat Center at 3729 Murphy School Road, Durham, NC 27705, though it’s actually just south of Hillsborough. We’d love to have you stop by and visit.
Our students have had unhappy school experiences. They are looking forward to starting over and being successful. But they need your help. Please consider joining the 31 other members in our 101 club. It’s an investment you won’t regret.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Do you remember the first time you held your child? It might have been moments after birth or it may have been the day the adoption was finally completed. I remember the first time so vividly for both of my children. I had never seen anyone so beautiful, so wonderful, so full of promise.
I suspect all parents feel that way when they first meet their child. Sometimes that promise is fulfilled in just the way we expected. And sometimes it’s not and we start off on a journey of daycare expulsions, teacher conferences, evaluations, IEP’s, phone calls home, tutors, perhaps even hospitalizations. We fight desperately to help our children live out our early hopes for them, all the while helplessly watching as the light seeps out of their eyes, as they become fearful and anxious, defiant and angry, or maybe just sit quietly in the back of the room, no longer willing to try. WE believe in them! Why won’t others?
When do you give up on a child? When is it too late to help her? I wonder that every time I read a news article about a young person who finally explodes. Could someone have helped the child before he grew up to do something horrible? Did anyone try? Do we just decide that bullying is a developmental stage that we as adults have no control over? Do we just keep giving a child more of what’s already not working? When do we decide that accommodations are better than remediation, that a child will never learn to read or write? A parent of one of my former tutoring students was told her seventh grade son didn’t have the cognitive ability to learn to read and so there was no sense wasting resources on him.
The students who have applied to JRA have parents who haven’t given up on their children. They may have given up on their schools or a diagnosis or a program, but they are ready to try again. They believe strongly that their child deserves dreams too. And every child I’ve interviewed wants so badly to learn. I asked a child if he had any questions at the end of his interview. “Can I come tomorrow?” he asked.
I have spent a couple of hours with a child psychologist whose face lights up as she talks about teaching empathy, impulse control, and social skills that help a child feel better about himself and better able to function in groups. On our board, we have an occupational therapist who is equally passionate as we discuss ways to help each child feel comfortable in their own bodies and in our space. An amazing arts teacher and I stand in a parking lot for an hour talking about what she’s done to reach kids who have given up. Someone else agrees to do a parent session on executive brain function deficits and how that can help us better understand our kids and not place unrealistic demands on them. I see the wheels turning in the mind of a wonderfully creative puppeteer as we discuss a presentation about ancient Egypt. Our reading tutors have over 70 hours of training, years of experience, and a history of success with some of the most challenging children. And I’m regularly reminded by a wise woman I’m blessed to know that love for each child is not an option but a requirement.
No one person can be all things to these fragile and intense children. And as we reach our two-thirds goal for enrollment, I’m always on the lookout for those dream weavers who can help the light come back into these children’s eyes. I want just the right group of adults who can surround the kids with support, remediation, excitement, joy, and hope. And to my delight, those people are there and they’re excited to help in whatever way they can.
Just Right Academy, Inc. is not a business. It is a group of people on a mission. We are not exclusive. At least a fourth of this first year’s class will be either full or partial scholarship, and I hope that will always be true. We accept these students without fear of not having enough. We are an incubator for dreams, and our board and I visualize abundance that will surround these children with the people and resources they need to dream once again and to become who they were meant to be.
This week we have reached a milestone: we are officially a 501(c)3 (pending) nonprofit corporation and can accept your donations. I hope you will give and give generously. There are dreams at stake here. We see too often what happens to dreams deferred. But dreamers CAN see their dreams fulfilled and therein lies joy. And I believe that joy also comes in helping others reach those dreams.
Oh, and the kid who “didn’t have the cognitive ability to learn to read”? In three years he went from being unable to read one syllable words to reading on a twelfth grade level. We read Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring together, complete with J’s political commentary and historical comparisons. When my time with him ended, he was mainstreamed into a tenth grade English class and had an A average. Someone gave up too soon, but his mother didn’t. And she was right not to.
Donations in any amount can be mailed to PO Box 3523, Chapel Hill, NC, 27515, and will be applied to the tuition of a child who is hoping this will be the school that offers the support and help he or she needs. Thank you for your support.