CHARLOTTE, N.C. — To help Classroom Central raise money and donate school supplies to low-income students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Eric Mower + Associates (EMA) has taken the first-day-of-school pictures that normally flood social media and offered a stark contrast.
Unlike the typical photos of smiling kids proudly holding up signs to commemorate the first day, the philanthropy’s social media campaign – which started Aug. 22 – features photos of disadvantaged children showcasing troubling statistics.
In one photo, for instance, a frowning boy holds a framed chalkboard that highlights how 50 percent of children in area public schools live in poverty. Those students are seven times more likely to drop out, the sign says. In turn, they’re three times as likely to be unemployed.
The poverty level means many teachers spend an average of $500 to $1,000 of their own money each year to provide school supplies for those students. Classroom Central helps further. It provides paper, pencils, folders and other materials to more than 82,000 kids, helping support teachers from 200 schools in six districts.
This year’s goal: supply children with a total of 1.8 million of those basic tools. Every monetary donation is matched by The Leon Levine Foundation.
“National studies show that impoverished children are twice as likely to repeat a grade, get suspended or expelled and, eventually, drop out,” said Karen Calder, Classroom Central’s executive director. “We’re so thankful for the donations this community provides to help combat these compounding problems, and that includes the time and effort EMA volunteered to help raise awareness, help raise money and help us make a difference.”
Besides the photos, EMA‘s pro bono work also includes radio ads that will air on stations throughout Mecklenburg and other counties. In the ads, kids who haven’t done their school assignments concoct unrealistic excuses. The excuses range from homework that’s either been transformed into cotton candy or left aboard a pink spaceship with blue polka dots.
“An excuse that’s even harder to believe,” a voice says at the end of the ad, “is half of local school children live in poverty and can’t afford the basic school supplies to do schoolwork. And that’s inexcusable.”
The Classroom Central ads will also be used by similar charities nationwide.
“As part of our agency’s Brand as Friend philosophy, EMA is dedicated to being a friend to the community – nationally and in all nine of the markets where we have offices,” said Managing Partner Matt Ferguson. “We donate work and time to organizations ranging from food banks to the Ronald McDonald House to hospice. Now, as a new school year launches, we wanted to start it off right. We couldn’t think of a better way than by helping Classroom Central and, in turn, helping more than 82,000 students.”