You could almost stop worrying about the future of Austin philanthropy thanks to Linda Brucker and the team that created A Legacy of Giving.
Since 2007, the program has exposed almost 6,000 students in the Austin, Eanes, and Round Rock school districts, plus a couple of private schools, to the concept of philanthropy. The program is more than a video or a field trip to the food bank; the lessons in giving are actually weaved into the curriculum.
“What we do is engage the students – from financially secure to low-income – to make sure they realize that being a philanthropist isn’t just about money,” says Brucker, “We tell them that every single one of them has time and talent to share.”
For example, one of the program’s early projects introduced students to the problems of hunger and poverty, first describing it at the global level, then describing the problems closer to home. “When we told them that 41,000 children in Travis County have food insecurity, there was this pause,” says Brucker. For the next lesson, a representative from Capital Area Food Bank came in and introduced them to idea of the food bank … and what a nonprofit is. And then for the next lesson, a storage unit arrived on campus. Students got inside, walked around, used math to figure the dimensions, and decided it would be a great place to store food. Fourteen schools and 3,600 students participated in the project they called ‘pack the pod,” raising 32,000 pounds of food in two weeks.
Program administrators train more than 125 teachers on how to use a Web-based platform hosting downloadable lessons and how to bring in resources from the community to make the lessons come to life. Aside from the poverty project, teachers could also choose a project based on Earth Day, which was coordinated with Keep Austin Beautiful. Another project revolved around financial literacy.
“It’s remarkable how these projects are having such an immediate impact on their lives,” says Brucker. One of the schools that took on the Earth Day project started recycling plastic and aluminum – at the students’ request. And students who participated in the financial literacy project reported talking to their parents about the family’s debt.
“We think we’re changing the conversation so that students feel like they’re part of the solution.”
LINDA BRUCKER’S FAVORITE MOMENT
“I was at Paredes Middle School, in the middle of the courtyard, and we were using meat scales to weigh some of the food that the students had collected. One of the students came up to me and said, ‘Are you Mrs. Brucker? Would that be okay if I talked to you?’
So I said, ‘Absolutely!’ Then she got very quiet and very close and said, ‘This is the coolest program we’ve ever had at my school.’
She took two steps back and said, ‘Mrs. Brucker, I’ve always been the one who had to get the food, and this is the first time I got to be the giver.’”