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Google's Cash Helps 253 Special Ed Kids at 6 Wicker, West Town Schools

By Alisa Hauser | November 13, 2015 6:51am
 Students in a classroom at Talcott School, one of 9 schools impacted by Donors Choose projects fully funded by Google.
Students in a classroom at Talcott School, one of 9 schools impacted by Donors Choose projects fully funded by Google.
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Talcott Fine Arts Academy

WICKER PARK — Teachers trying to crowdsource money for their classrooms got a surprise from Google this week when the search engine behemoth announced that its charitable arm would fully fund all special education-related "Donors Choose" requests posted by schools in Cook County.

Representatives from Google made the announcement Tuesday during a surprise assembly at Lane Tech College Prep High School.

In total, 117 projects were funded — requests ranging from laptops to bean bag chairs — at a cost of $100,000.

Google posted the following messages on each teacher's Donor Choose page:

"Today, to celebrate everything you do for students with special needs, we’re funding your project and all current special needs projects in Cook County. Thank you for your creativity and your commitment to equity for students who learn in all kinds of ways. We’re lucky to have you in the classroom!"

In the Wicker Park, Bucktown and West Town area, Google funded 9 projects at 6 schools totaling $5,137.78.

The money will impact 253 students at Burr Elementary School, 1621 W. Wabansia Ave.; CICS-Bucktown, 2235 N. Hamilton Ave.; Otis Elementary School, 525 N. Armour St.;  Roberto Clemente Community Academy, 1147 N. Western Ave.; LaSalle II Magnet School, 1148 N. Honore St.; and Talcott Elementary School, 1840 W. Ohio St.

The largest local donation was $1,890.45 for "Laptops for Miss Schibelka's World Studies Classroom!"

"I cannot wait to see the looks on their faces when I tell them today! We will be using these computers to access resources, such as Google Classroom and other educational technology websites," wrote Mary Claire Schibelka, who was among several teachers who posted their thanks to Google.

In her project pitch, Schibelka said the students in her ninth-grade special education World Studies classroom at Roberto Clemente Community Academy are far more engaged when learning through technology, but there are 10 students trying to share four laptops.

Schibelka, who asked for 6 Dell Chromebooks, received all of the laptops, which have been shipped to the school's principal.

"I cannot thank you enough for funding my Donors Choose project. For the longest time, I was convinced that this project would never become funded, but thanks to you, I see that anything is possible," Schibelka told Google.

Approximately 40 preschoolers at LaSalle II Magnet School in East Village, many who have developmental delays in their language, motor skills and/or social-emotional skills, will benefit from visual aids made by a new printer and laminator in Ms. Liss' classroom.

"Thank you so much for thinking of my students! I have been working with our speech pathologists to create new visual supports for my students. We have been working on new communication books as well as new visual supports throughout the classroom. These supports require high-quality lamination and printing. With your help, I will be able to create these supports for my students for years to come. I can't wait to tell everyone when I get back to work tomorrow. Thank you again for your kindness!" Liss wrote.

Some 95 students in Jamie Funkhouser's eighth-grade classes at CICS-Bucktown will soon be studying on circular tables and bean bag chairs. 

"I can't wait for my students to hear and see the new way our classroom will look. My students are working to develop their team building by working in small groups and this will really help," Funkhouser wrote.

The news comes just months after many Chicago Public Schools received word their special ed budgets were being cut.

Donors Choose was founded in 2000 to create a place where teachers could post their classroom needs online and any interested individual could donate funds toward the projects.

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