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Photo courtesy of Paige Benson
An elementary school class at P.S. 17 receives a tablet charging station with help from Donors Choose.

Paige Benson, an elementary school teacher at P.S. 17 Henry David Thoreau in Astoria, is looking to establish a T-shirt club so that her students can create shirts for school events.

Benson, who teaches fourth- and fifth-grade special education, is using donorschoose.org to help fund this initiative, which she is calling “Hot Off The Press.”

Donors Choose was started in 2000 by a public school teacher in the Bronx. After realizing how much money teachers spent on supplies, he created this nonprofit to help educators fund specific projects with help from people across the country.

“Donors Choose has been a blessing to our school and my classroom,” Benson said. “Currently, our school does not have much recess equipment so we are trying to start some lunchtime clubs where students can build up confidence to interact with peers and adults, as well as develop a sense of responsibility and have access to activities they have interest in.”

Benson worked with another teacher and a supervisor to gauge students’ interest and is requesting $621 for a Cricut Explore Air 2 Machine, which will allow the students to create and cut designs on vinyl, and a heat press machine to adhere the designs onto the shirts.

Benson said the students will work on smaller projects first like designing staff T-shirts that they can sell to raise money for materials, shirts for an after-school club like cheerleading or helping to make costumes for the school’s Disney on Broadway production.

P.S. 17 is a Title 1 school, which means a high number of the students come from low-income families and according to Benson, some of her students are also English Language Learners.

“My students are extremely inquisitive and always asking questions and looking to explore new ideas on a daily basis,” she wrote in the fundraising page. “We believe this project will help our students in the regard to art, creativity, flexibility, patience and responsibility.”

Benson, who has been teaching for 10 years, said Donors Choose has been able to help her fund a number of projects. The nonprofit has allowed her to purchase flexible seating for her class, pouches for girls to put their personal items in, and people also helped fund a trip to Build-A-Bear to create personal companions for students.

Last winter, a P.S. 17 alum stumbled upon her fundraising page and helped to bring her students on a trip to watch the movie “Wonder.”

Students will not receive their materials if the specific project isn’t funded by July 14. To donate, visit the project’s page.

Benson is a voluntary ambassador for the organization and encourages other teachers to use Donors Choose to fund class projects.

If you’re a teacher and interested in signing up for an account, email Benson at Pbenson2@schools.nyc.gov with any questions.

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