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Real-life stories about improving schools

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By Marian Wilde , GreatSchools Staff

One community member tells the story of The A.P. Tureaud Book Drive

"Although Katrina is now almost three years past, much of New Orleans still has it tough. Maria Falgoust wanted to do something to help. So she came up with the idea to run a book drive for A.P. Tureaud Elementary, a large public school in the hard-hit Seventh Ward.

"Falgoust started by contacting a math coach at Tureaud, who sent a survey around to teachers, asking for book requests. Soon Falgoust had enough titles to create a wish list of books for the school on Amazon. Then she looked at the list of books and chose other similar volumes and added them to the list.

"Falgoust emailed a letter outlining the details of the book drive and discussing the current state of the Seventh Ward and the school itself. She started by emailing her friends and colleagues. But she wasn't done there - then she posted the book drive on her personal MySpace page. Soon she had donations pouring in. She set up a system so that all donations were sent to her parents house, where her mom organized the books, keeping track of who sent what and added a nameplate with the donors' names to the inside of each book. On the front cover, she clipped a prepaid blank postcard addressed to the book's recipient, so that the students of Tureaud could write a short thank-you note. After all this work was done on each book, it was off to the school library!

"While the books kept coming in, Falgoust emailed updates on the drive to her friends and professional community and provided links to photographs of the kids, school and neighborhood on Flickr.

"The book drive was a tremendous success - Falgoust and her parents have collected an astounding 900 books for Tureaud since the drive began. People from all over contributed to the drive: Canada, California, Vermont, Wisconsin, Texas and more! A school in Nyack, New York, was so inspired by the drive that they bought 115 books for Tureaud. Falgoust wanted the teachers at Tureaud to know that people care about them and were rooting for them - she certainly achieved that, and more."

Write your own story

These inspiring stories remind us all of the importance of parental and community involvement in improving schools for all children, not just for our own. Go to Once Upon a School to read many more stories submitted by parents and citizens who have made a difference at their schools, or to see a list of possible ideas for projects. Then it's your turn to accept Eggers' challenge by submitting your school involvement story. Let's help him achieve his dream of 1000 stories by February 2009.