Baltimore students' generosity inspires others, prompts fundraiser to pay for college field trips

City Springs Elementary/Middle School students taught Baltimore a lesson in empathy. Now, some in the city are looking to give back to the students.

At a school with one of the highest poverty rates in Baltimore, a group of eighth graders launched a fundraiser last month for victims of Hurricane Harvey. After raising $1,000, the story of their generosity went viral and more donations poured in. City Springs students have since tripled the amount of money they plan to donate to the American Red Cross.

“We knew if we were in the same position that Houston was in, we would want someone helping us,” said student Chantelle Thomas, 13. “It helped us to better understand the importance of giving to others, when we’re not in the best position ourselves.”

Baltimore Curriculum Project, the charter school operator that runs a network of neighborhood charter schools including City Springs, hopes to reward the students for their efforts. The nonprofit has launched a fundraiser of its own — this one aimed at collecting about $31,000 to send City Springs middle-schoolers on monthly college field trips for the next three years.

“These students gave back to the community and now we want to give back to them,” reads the description on their fundraising page.

It costs about $350 per bus to transport students on a local college field trip, said Larry Schugam, executive vice president of the organization.

“Sending the kids on college field trips is really critical to exposing them to the college experience,” Schugam said. “The more we can get them on college campuses, the better their chances of seeing this as something in their future.”

Finding funding for the buses remains the biggest obstacle, he said.

Last year, City Springs did not have money available to pay for buses, he said. Instead, they borrowed a 12-passenger van from another neighborhood charter school. For one week, they took 10 students per day, along with two staff chaperones, to either the University of Maryland, College Park or Towson University. A total of 50 students got the experience, about just a third of the sixth through eighth grade student population. The school is in a similar funding predicament this year, Schugam said.

Should the fundraiser reach its goal, the money would be spread out over three years to fund bus trips to in-state and out-of-state colleges.

“Funding for buses would allow more students to visit more colleges and take up less staff time,” Schugam said. “It would represent an exponential growth in the number of kids going and number of colleges they could visit.”

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