“How these students are taking action to fill supply gaps at school themselves”

There’s no doubt that there are gaps to fill in the Philly education system. Students Helping Students (SHS) attacks two specific issues — redirecting books and materials to low-income schools and micro-granting funds to school faculty.

Students Helping Students (SHS) aims to help bridge the education inequality gap. Its programming is focused on bringing relief to as many schools as possible by recycling gently-used supplies and providing new resources for schools that are in need. The Meetup group, which SHS has used to gather supporters for one event so far, is run by Mike Chawaga, Adam Boehr, Andrew DiGioia, Bill Zandi, Cj McClave, and Justice Bennett.

“The reason for starting Students Helping Students was that the playing field for K-12 education was by no means equal in our geographic region, “ Chawaga said. “You would drive 30 minutes down the road and the graduation rate increased by 62 percent. It did not make any sense to us. Identifying this issue and realizing that an unprecedented amount of waste was occurring, SHS was born.”

Students Helping Students Clubs

One of the main SHS programs is establishing student-run clubs in both wealthy and low-income educational institutions. Students attending more well-off schools are responsible for collecting unwanted and gently-used supplies and furnishings and then storing and delivering the materials to designated low-income schools. The nonprofit already has several schools participating, with active clubs in Great Valley High School, Radnor High School, Harriton High School, Malvern Preparatory School…

SHS also aims to increase efficiency and create long-term working relationships by pairing low-income schools with well-off schools. The low-income school’s SHS chapter focuses primarily on assessing the needs of the school.

Working on the Students Helping Students clubs so far has helped the organization to understand the needs of schools more clearly. For instance, SHS was encountering issues in assessing the time required for low-income schools to provide ‘wish-list’ — not that materials weren’t needed, but that some schools did not know what it had and, as a result, did not know their needs.

This lead to implementing the SHS clubs in the low-income schools in order to assess the needs of their schools. The SHS clubs first conduct an inventory of all textbooks that exist within not only their school, but also neighboring k-12 public schools. This helps to identify and record the relevant information about each textbook that exists per classroom, per grade, and once the information is recorded, SHS headquarters can then further evaluate. The ultimate goal of this process is to compare the actual data recorded by these low-income schools with the required lists of textbooks and materials allotted to each school by the School District. With that information, an inventory system will store the data, which could be accessible by all parties.

School Funding Initiative

SHS’s other main program, the School Funding Initiative, is designed to give teachers and faculty members at impoverished educational institutions the opportunity to receive additional funding for necessary classroom items. The grants come from individuals or businesses that agree to sponsor a school assigned by SHS with \$10,000 over the course of one calendar year. Schools work with the teachers and faculty to determine necessary classroom items to be funded.

Currently, SHS is implementing a pilot program of its School Funding Initiative at South Philadelphia High School.

– Mo Manklang

Mo Manklang is the Community Manager at, and has been convening people around creative solutions for Philly for the past four years. Mo is the Vice President of the board of the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance, is cofounder of The Bechdel Test Fest and loves exploring the weird side of Philadelphia. Also she loves tacos.