Non-profits focused on education serve an important function in the US, where the educational system is lagging behind that of many other developed countries. Not only are these educational non-profits picking up the slack, they are accomplishing their mission through a variety of innovative programs that put the excitement back in learning.
From preschool to high school, here are five educational non-profits that inspire kids to stay in school, read more, travel the world, and even use computer and video games to address social and environmental change.
1. Cartoonists Around America & the World
Founded by Phil Yeh in 1985, Cartoonists Across America & the World (formerly Cartoonists for Literacy), based in San Bernardino, CA, is comprised of a group of cartoon artists who believe that “art, music and reading must play a central role in the health of our communities.” The organization achieves its mission of promoting literacy, creativity, music, and the arts in several ways, including traveling to schools, public speaking engagements, and conferences, as well as through comic books written and illustrated by the artists themselves.
2. Farther Foundation
The Farther Foundation is a Chicago-based non-profit organization whose mission is to expose low-income students to the world beyond their neighborhood by giving them a scholarship to be used for an educational travel opportunity. As David Weindling, founder of the Farther Foundation, states, “I have learned that travel is singular in its ability to open the eyes and unbind the aspirations of students whose experiences rarely escape the boundaries of their own neighborhoods. Inspired by experience, students become active and engaged learners, full of potential and more fully aware of the world and its opportunities.”
3. Sesame Workshop
Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, the 40-year-old, award-winning television show on PBS, is perhaps the most well-known educational non-profit around. In addition to being the powerhouse behind television shows such as The Electric Company (1971 and 2009), Dragon Tales, Square One TV, and Sagwa, one of the main initiatives at Sesame Workshop is “Literacy & Numeracy.” Literacy & Numeracy includes the “Talking Cents” program, which introduces the concept of basic finances to young children.
4. Our Piece of the Pie
Connecticut-based OPP, or Our Piece of the Pie, helps urban youths, aged 14 to 24, become successful adults through programs and partnerships that help them complete high school, receive occupational skill certificates, obtain two- or four-year college degrees, and/or obtain long-term employment, whether it's through artistic expression or community service. For example, OPP youth recently wrote, performed, and directed the play Creature for the Teacher, a modern-day adaptation of Frankenstein at Hartford Stage, and more than 2,000 kids participated in local community service projects as part of worldwide Global Youth Service Day.
5. Games for Change
Although the mission of Games for Change, or G4C, is not strictly educational, it is nonetheless a non-profit organization that believes in the “power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, education, human rights, global conflict and climate change.” Games such as 3rd World Farmer allow players to manage a small virtual farm in a developing country and experience first-hand the hardships that these farmers face. Reach the World's GeoGames, an online, interactive suite of geography-learning games, is based on research at Teachers College (Columbia University) and funded originally by the National Geographic Society Education Foundation. G4C also features games that have been developed jointly between youths and professional programmers.
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