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The Accidental Advocate

Elementary education major surprised by a stranger’s donation

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Jamie MacDonald often talks about the students she’s working with at the Raymond Elementary School in Brockton. She began student-teaching fifth graders there in January.

“The students are amazing,” she said.

The East Bridgewater resident works in the extended-day program and loves the work, except for one aspect: She is saddened to see how the lack of supplies affects the students. This is another thing she talks about. It's her way of advocating on the students' behalf.

“Paper is a commodity in the school. There are no scissors, no glue sticks, no pencils and all the crayons are broken,” she said. “There’s not a lot to offer the kids as far as school supplies.”

She’s also witnessed ESL classes where there are 35 students and one teacher.

Exacerbating her dismay was a recent Boston Globe article indicating that some towns in the commonwealth spend an average of $1.28 per student per year on school supplies, while in some wealthier towns that amount is $275. In fact, earlier this year, Brockton officials were contemplating suing the state over funding amounts.

“I see the different side of it, and how hard the kids work and how badly they want to learn, but they don’t always have the supplies or the opportunities,” Ms. MacDonald said. “I’m always advocating for the students because I know how much they’re capable of.”

Bothered by the inequities she’s witnessed firsthand, Ms. MacDonald recently found herself discussing this with a friend while dining at a restaurant in Easton. She didn’t know this, but two men sitting nearby were able to catch the gist of their conversation.

“One of the men came over, and all of a sudden he’s writing me a check for $1,000,” she recalled. “I was in tears. He wanted nothing in return.”

The two men were lawyers, and the benefactor told Ms. MacDonald that his wife worked for School on Wheels, a nonprofit organization that provides education to the children of homeless families. (The BSU Scholars program, which provides a free education to select homeless individuals, works closely with the organization).

The next morning, Ms. MacDonald presented the check to the principal of Raymond Elementary, and she was ecstatic, and also moved to tears.

“It was really nice to see her that happy,” Ms. MacDonald said. “That money is going to go so far on school supplies.”

She takes no credit for bringing in the donation.

“I just happened to be lucky enough to sit next to someone who cared about education,” she said.

Ms. MacDonald is mentored by Professor Nicole Glen, who has taught her about the importance of advocating on behalf of young people in need. It’s a lesson Ms. MacDonald has taken to heart.

“These students have become a big part of my life,” she said. “I hope that I can make sure that the things they lack don’t keep them from being what they want to be.

Ms. MacDonald graduates later this month. (Story and photo by John Winters, G’11, University News) 

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