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Federal Way schools tap Gates Foundation money for classroom projects

Earlier this month, community leaders gathered to raise awareness that Federal Way Public Schools was chosen to be part of a funding project through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

On Oct. 5, Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest, FWPS Superintendent Rob Neu, school board President Tony Moore and family and community partnership director Trise Moore got together at The Commons Mall Starbucks. Their announcement: Federal Way was one of two school districts allowed access to $500,000 of available money to help fund classroom projects.

Trise Moore said the project works through the website DonorsChoose.org. FWPS teachers submit an essay to the website describing their project, which is usually between $400 to $700, and the essay gets posted to the Donors Choose website.

On Oct. 5, $10 cards were given out for people to donate toward a project of their choosing. Those interested in helping out can get a free $10 donation card from Moore herself.

"We had a teacher whose project got funded in one day because parents who went to Starbucks heard what it was about, told their friends and neighbors," Moore said. "We've had about 150 teachers sign up, and 30 or 40 have already been funded."

One of those teachers who had her project funded was Barbara Burn, a second grade teacher at Wildwood Elementary. She sought funding for the purchase of books by authors Gary Soto and Yuyi Morales. Soto and Morales are Mexican-American, and Burn said she was motivated by a long conversation with her fellow teacher Shannon Houghton, and that getting the books of these two authors would let the diverse population of Wildwood students know they are capable of doing anything.

Outside of the positive effects that the funding provided by DonorsChoose.org and the Gates Foundation brought to her students, Burn said it was amazing to see the community giving back in such a way.

"First of all, it was very humbling," she said. "That so many people, both friends from throughout the school district and the community would give, but that total strangers, people from New York and California, participated in fulfilling the needed funds. It was overwhelming to realize how people had given from the heart."

A deadline is fast approaching for Federal Way schools to take advantage of this program, with the program ending Nov. 8, Moore said. Those interested in receiving the $10 donation cards can contact Moore directly at (253) 945-2273. She hopes the community feels a sense of urgency to help get these teachers' projects funded.

"Here's money that's being made available, without us having to use our own money," Moore said.

Burn hopes to see the community continue funding these projects as well. A veteran teacher nearing the end of her career, Burn said her experience with this project has reaffirmed her belief in the community's commitment to education.

"This continues to convince me that there are so many people who care about education, about what's good for kids," she said. "This is something that is going to be good for the kids."

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