An Idea for the Holidays

Evan Powell, December 2, 2004
Several weeks ago I happened to meet a woman who is the principal of a public elementary school in San Francisco. Since I've always got projectors on the brain, one of my first questions was whether her school was using projection equipment in any of the classrooms. I know that high schools and middle schools use them when they can afford them. But I had no idea whether they were being used yet at the elementary school level.

She smiled at me with a look that indicated she was amused and charmed by my naïve inquiry. "Well," she said gently, "our school is not in the best part of town. We don't have any money for projectors or that sort of thing. Most of the kids come from broken homes and are not well cared for. Many are homeless and come to school filthy. Our last donations were used to buy a washer and dryer so we can wash the children's clothes."

I have not been able to get those words out of my mind. They have stirred a host of feelings this holiday season—gratitude that I was lucky enough to have attended a good public school in my youth, but also anger and frustration that situations like the one in San Francisco even exist in a country with the wealth and resources of the United States. Though not all schools are in need of washers and dryers, most of them are seriously under-funded for both staff and technological resources.

Putting a projector in every classroom will not solve the whole problem. But it is a start. Projectors help to focus kids' attention on the materials being taught. They help teachers communicate more effectively. So teachers love to use them when they can get their hands on them—which sadly is not very often.

If you want to put a smile on the face of some teachers and a lot of kids this holiday season, consider donating a projector to a local school. If you are fortunate enough to have the financial resources, buy a new low-cost projector and deliver it to a teacher you know. Models now selling for under $1000 are worth a fortune to a teacher. You will make a lot of people happy, and you will get a tax deduction for making a valuable contribution to your community.

If you are upgrading to the latest projector technology, consider donating your old projector to a school. If you can, donate it with a fresh new lamp, since schools don't have the extra funds even for lamps, much less the projectors.

If you don't know a teacher personally and don't have kids of your own in a local school, you can check the hundreds of listings in our School Donation Center to find schools in your area that are in need of projector donations.

Many readers may not have either the financial resources or a used projector to donate this season. That is okay too—you can still help by passing the word to those who might. If each of us did something concrete to raise awareness of the need, even by just encouraging a donation of that older projector at the office or emailing this article to someone, we will substantially increase the flow of projectors into the classrooms where they can be put to truly valuable use.

Since my encounter with the principal from San Francisco, I have donated two projectors to teachers that I know. Take it from me, the smiles alone are worth it.