C.W. Henry Elementary School principal Fatima Rogers (right) thanks Lynda O’Leary (left) and her six-year-old son Cooper, who is a kindergartener at Henry, for raising funds for the school’s media center. Instead of receiving presents for his birthday, Cooper asked his family and friends to make a donation to the school’s GoFundMe page to help raise funds to support the school’s Launchpad Instructional Media Center. Cooper raised $100. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

C.W. Henry Elementary School in Mt. Airy has received a $12,500 matching grant from the Neubauer Family Foundation to help fund the schools Launchpad Instructional Media Center. Fatima Rogers, Henry School’s principal said the foundation will match dollar for dollar funds raised by the Henry School community, up to $12,500.

Henry, which currently has 482 students in grades K-8, does not have a functioning library. Rogers said all the funds raised on the school GoFundMe page will go towards creating a multimedia center. According to Rogers, the new center will cost approximately $25,000.

Unfortunately, the school has only raised about $1,500 on its GoFundMe page and time is running out. The school has until Nov. 30, 2017, to raise the $12,500. After that, the foundation will match the school’s funds dollar for dollar.

Rogers said faculty members like Yvette Fisher, a second grade teacher, whose grandchildren attend the school, have been invaluable. Fisher organized and hosted a series of classroom pizza parties and, with her son’s help, designed Launchpad T-shirts.

Meredith Schecter, a first grade teacher at Henry, said although the school has a wonderful computer lab, which was recently updated, it doesn’t have a functioning library.

“The school hopes to give our students more structured access to high quality literature and nonfiction texts by creating an instructional media center,” she said. “All students need and deserve quality library programs with full-time staff.”

Rogers said the school wants to increase student achievement and lessen the gap present among various socio-economic groups.

“We want to expose students to high quality literature and up-to-date technology to support a love of learning and increase student achievement,” she said.

Schecter said libraries are more than just rooms full of books; they are portals to learning.
“I think people don’t realize that our schools do not have libraries and our schools do not have the funding to create libraries from the school budget,” she said. “It’s not something that exists within the School District of Philadelphia’s budget right now.

“It used to be that teaching was about giving students information, but now students have the information available at their fingertips. But how do they access that information? It is important that our kids start to learn how to discern accurate information from inaccurate information. For example, how do you check the information on Wikipedia to find out whether it is valid information?”

She said today’s students need to be able to think critically. She added that teachers must “engage and inspire” their students by teaching them how to access information that interests them.

“A lot of the jobs these kids are going to have in the future don’t even exist, yet,” Schecter said. “As teachers, we need to keep students up to date on the latest technology and keep them engaged in ways that are meaningful to them. Research indicates that the more exposure children have to a variety of texts, the more their reading levels will increase.

A 2013 study by Kachel and Lance entitled “Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting students achievement,” found that “students are more likely to succeed when they have library programs that are well-staffed, well-funded, technologically well equipped, well stocked and more accessible.”

Even Cooper O’Leary, a kindergartner at C.W. Henry, understands what’s at stake. He recently asked friends and family members to make a donation to the school’s GoFundMe page instead of buying him a birthday present. After all, Cooper knows that his future is at stake.
For more information about C.W. Henry’s Launchpad Instructional Media Center or to make a donation, go to their GoFundMe page.