GSE News

Microgiving @ Penn GSE

February 5, 2013 - There’s a new way to give back at Penn GSE. Microgiving @ Penn GSE, a recently launched microgrant initiative, champions the power of small gifts to make a difference in our community. Rather than soliciting large gifts from individual donors, Microgiving focuses on crowd-sourcing small gifts from several donors.

The first three Microgiving campaigns, ranging in size from $1,000-$2,500, focus on: purchasing books for a high-need school library, teaching kids about college, and making GSE a zero emissions building. Each campaign furthers the School's mission and aligns with an ongoing project, and offers faculty staff, students, and alumni the chance to have a collective impact ouside the School.

“We hope to engage faculty, staff, young alumni, students –  the whole GSE community – in projects that have a tangible result,” says Alison Palmer, Penn GSE’s Assistant Director for the Annual Fund and Alumni Relations. “We want to show that you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a big impact.”

Teaching Kids About College
The Decorate a Classroom Fund aims to raise $1,000 to teach young students about the possibility of attending college. Every year, Penn GSE alumni who teach in schools across the country request donations of Penn promotional materials to share with their students. Teachers use the powerful university symbolism to teach their students about the value of higher education and to encourage them to set academic goals that will lead to college acceptance. Alumna Stella Lui Chen, a second grade teacher in Texas, recently used Penn GSE materials to teach her students about Penn. “Pennsylvania is so far away for them, so learning about Penn was very exciting," she said. "It’s given them some inspiration.”

NancyLee Bergey, Associate Director of the Teacher Education Program, was the first donor to the Decorate a Classroom Fund and assisted Chen in acquiring GSE materials to share with her students. “Supporting former students though contributing Penn-branded items, or with funding to provide books, is something I have done personally, Bergey says. “I am so glad to see GSE making this a national effort. Small contributions can make a big difference and are very meaningful to these teachers and their students.”

Sharing the Gift of Reading
The Books for a High-Need School Library Fund aims to raise $2,500 to purchase a class set of award-winning non-fiction books for children. The books will be donated to an after-school reading club facilitated by Professor Gerald Campano and Reading/Writing/Literacy doctoral students Lan Ngo, David Low, Robert Leblanc, Alicia Pantoja, Karim Mostafa, Mary Yee, and Katrina Bartow at St. Thomas Aquinas Mission School in South Philadelphia. Campano and his students will meet twice weekly with K-8 students after school to work on both reading and writing non-fiction, a new focus of the Common Core State Standards that has particular relevance for English language learners.

"Our work at St. Thomas Aquinas is about doing research alongside and in solidarity with community members regarding their children's education," says Campano. "It demonstrates how we can work together across cultural, linguistic, and institutional boundaries to advocate for a family's needs and young people's education – and now the whole GSE community can participate."

Clearing the Air
Focusing on a very different kind of community need, the Make GSE a Zero Emissions Building Fund aims to raise $1,200 to purchase wind energy credits to offset the School’s emissions for five years, effectively making 3700 Walnut Street a zero emissions building. This fund supports the efforts of the Penn Green Campus Partnership and President Amy Gutman’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the University’s emissions of climate-altering greenhouse gases.

"I'm excited that GSE will be offering a way for us all to help make our building a zero emissions building,” says John Irwin, Director of Data Analysis and Staff Eco-Rep for GSE. “It can be hard to figure out how to do something to slow climate change, and this is a way we can all contribute."

Palmer hopes to build on the success of these initial projects to expand Microgiving @ Penn GSE in the future. “We already have ideas for future microgrant projects in mind,” she says. “I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m excited to see the Penn GSE community pull together to have a collective impact and create change.”

To contribute to any of the Microgiving @ Penn GSE funds or track their progress, click here. For more information or to suggest a future Microgiving campaign, contact Alison Palmer at (215) 746-0216 or