Waugh Elementary School District in Petaluma, Calif., has raised more than $25,000 for new classroom technology by simply recycling its electronic waste.

In the Waugh Elementary School District in Petaluma, Calif., it is district policy to use school technology until it dies. At that point, we can look into procuring new pieces for the school libraries and classrooms. As the technology specialist for the past 18 years, I have organized and implemented a myriad of fundraising opportunities in the hopes of purchasing updated technology. Despite the efforts put forth by students and parents, the amount of technology needed far exceeded the means we had to purchase it.

In October 2002, I learned about FundingFactory and its fundraising by recycling program. I saw immediate benefits in signing up for this program because it would help the schools obtain updated equipment. The choice was obvious: it’s free to enroll, you’re helping the environment, and you can earn as much or as little as you want at your school’s own pace. This option offered a creative and beneficial way to raise the money for much-needed technology upgrades. Additionally, I saw the program as an opportunity to involve parents and surrounding businesses for a comprehensive, robust fundraising event.

Making substantial gains

With previous fundraisers, we were never able to raise enough money in an academic year to purchase technology, and if we didn’t use the money we had raised, we’d lose it. FundingFactory tracks and saves our money, allowing rollovers from year to year.

Since 2002, Waugh Elementary schools have raised a combined $25,814. In one year alone, we were able to purchase 16 color printers, a digital camera and ink and toner cartridges for the printers. This was an incredible effort from everyone involved, with competitive stakes at a highpoint. To think that at one point we were struggling to fund a single piece of new technology — let alone multiple pieces a year — is humbling.

Friendly fundraising competition

Just because we are doing well in updating our technology, it doesn’t mean that the competition has stagnated. I know that fostering inter-classroom competition is integral to making this fundraising program successful from year to year. At the beginning of every school year, I send home a flyer indicating when the year-long contest officially starts, and the parameters for participation. For every qualifying piece of e-waste a student turns in, such as ink cartridges, toners and laptops, one point is earned. If a student brings items from a parent’s work or from a business, five points are awarded. If a student brings in an item from a parent or relative’s work or business, and includes a business card, a one-time bonus of five points is awarded per student, per year. Students jump at the chance to not only see who brings in the most items for their respective classrooms, but who really ups the ante by collecting from businesses. The winning classrooms receive an ice cream social with more than enough candy toppings to go around.

As for parents, they want to see their children and the schools succeed, so they get into the competitive spirit as well. One parent collected more than 800 cell phones after visiting four Verizon stores, and others assist in placing recycling boxes at local grocery and printing stores. This has become a real community effort, and people seem to enjoy contributing items to the kids for the overall betterment of the school.

A thoughtful introspection

At one point, it had been more than 3 years since the schools had received updated technology. Since participating in FundingFactory’s e-waste recycling program, we have been able to work together and expedite new technology purchases. And while we still have several weeks to go before we head back to school, I’m already gearing up for this year’s fundraiser, assuming my proud role as the schools’ “Recycle Queen.” I’m looking forward to another successful year of collecting e-waste and facilitating our schools’ fundraising efforts.

Diana Utroske is the technology specialist at Waugh Elementary School District in Petaluma, Calif., where she has worked for more than 18 years. Diana instructs and helps students master technology concepts and skills across the curriculum. As part of her role, she is one of the individuals responsible for purchasing technology for the district’s two schools, Corona Creek Elementary and Meadow Elementary.

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