For the 2021-22 school year, teachers at close to 50 area elementary schools are being supported by Learning Launch. Courtesy United to Learn.

United to Learn is checking off more teacher wishlists with their fifth annual Learning Launch.

United to Learn started this program to provide teachers with a supply drive at the start of each year. The nonprofit found that on average, teachers spend $600 of their own personal budget on supplies annually.

In response to this, Learning Launch started as an extension of back to school shopping. Teachers would make Amazon wish lists and United to Learn would ask people to pick up extra supplies when doing their own back to school shopping. It has since grown into a larger-scale operation, with bulk orders for supplies and special requests from teachers and schools.

For the 2021-22 school year, teachers at close to 50 area elementary schools are being supported by Learning Launch. The program focuses on area Title I elementary schools, which includes Lake Highlands area schools like Highland Meadows Elementary, Jack Lowe Sr. Elementary, Jill Stone Elementary, Lee A. McShan Jr. Elementary and LL Hotchkiss Elementary in Dallas ISD.

United to Learn has been in contact with schools since May to solidify requests for the upcoming year. Supplies requested vary from year to year, with leveled libraries, language lab audio kits, social-emotional support resources and math skill games making the list for this fall.

“Having a leveled library will make it easier and more user-friendly for students and faculty to pick level-appropriate reading books for both independent reading and guided reading,” Principal Joseph Medaris of McShan Elementary said. “The vast majority of our students are newcomer refugees and our big push has been guided reading within small group instruction to ensure that students are leaving McShan Elementary with an opportunity for success.”

Coming off a few tumultuous academic years, the need to support teachers and for them to have the supplies they need is even more necessary, United to Learn president Carol Goglia said.

“COVID, that’s definitely widened the learning gap with some Dallas ISD schools seeing a 12-18%, decrease in math and 6-10% decrease in literacy achievement. And only 60% of students are meeting state … standards,” Goglia said. “So there’s a lot of energy and pressure to catch catch up and to get students back where we know they can be. And to really bolster the teachers and the educators who are teaching them in that regard.”

Donations for the Learning Launch are being accepted online and can be found here, along with more information on the program and what donations are going toward. Donations of $500 or more given before Sept. 1 are eligible for free tickets to the Back to School Learning Launch Fiesta, taking place at Greenway Parks Sept. 9.

United to Learn is also looking for student and adult volunteers to help with tutoring at its 49 partner elementary schools going into this academic year, as well as adult liaisons to work one-on-one in schools. Find more information on these opportunities here.