Beth Milne is a past member of the 50CAN team. 

Back-to-school season is upon us, and our team at 50CAN knows that students aren’t the only ones making last-minute preparations, dusting off their books and getting their school supplies in order. In classrooms, offices and tiled hallways across the country, teachers, principals and support staff are working hard to prepare for a new year of teaching, learning and growing.

And we wanted to help.

Thanks to our friends at ExpandED Schools by The After School Corporation, our team, along with some additional volunteers from Students for Education Reform, connected with Thurgood Marshall Academy Lower School last week. We met staff development and data coordinator Kimberly Crawford inside the Harlem elementary school. It was a sweltering, late-summer Friday, but the school was already humming with teachers planning for the upcoming year.

Under Ms. Crawford’s direction, we traded in emails and conference calls for sorting library books, organizing art supplies and arranging desks.

In between decorating signs for each classroom and digging through old books, we were happily reminded of memories from our own school days – the joy of splashing your paintbrush into brilliant watercolors, the effortless glide of a brand new marker across paper.

We even re-discovered some of our first favorite books (Clifford the Big Red Dog, anyone?). To see more photos of 50CAN’s Day of Service, check out our Facebook album.

But hands down, the most rewarding aspect of the day was simply getting to spend it with Thurgood Marshall’s committed staff, inside of one of New York City’s many excellent schools. 

As full-time advocates for school policy change, we sometimes find ourselves wrapped up in the big picture. But Friday was an opportunity to enjoy the small things: to pull up chairs and work in classrooms, to chat with educators about the upcoming school year and to give back in a completely different way. Our team was thankful for the reminder to stay grounded in what’s happening inside our schools every day.

As students and educators file into classrooms this week—from kindergarten to college—we wish them the best. We hope they take the time to relish the little things that make great schools great. And to fellow advocates, we hope you find the opportunity to visit a local school sometime soon, to lend a helping hand and hear from the folks who see the policies we fight for play out day after day.


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