NEW YORK — Burlington Stores and Adoptaclassroom.org kicked off their third partnership for the back-to-school season on Tuesday to raise funds to support New York City teachers and students, and tapped actor Taye Diggs to raise awareness for the cause.
The retailer in 2017 partnered with Adoptaclassroom.org, the nonprofit organization that helps teachers purchase school supplies for their classrooms, by tapping Oscar-winning music artist and actor Common and his mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, a 35-year educator and Chicago Board of Education member. In the inaugural and subsequent years, Burlington, Adopt a Classroom, Common and Hines donated $10,000 to the Renaissance School of the Arts in Harlem and P.S. 111, respectively.
This year, Diggs joined the groups in their $100,000 donation to city schools. The donation, which is the retailer’s largest onetime school supply gift to date, will be distributed to six Manhattan school districts and kick-starts the donation period, which runs through Aug. 17. The retailer is encouraging customers to donate $1 or more at its 684 stores nationwide during the campaign. To date, the program has raised $3.6 million toward classroom materials for teachers and students.
“One thing I can say about Adopt a Classroom is, I’m a fan,” said New York City Chancellor Richard Carranza at a press conference at the New York City Department of Education.
Carranza is a former educator who taught social studies and other subjects, and he confessed that he would “happily go back to the classroom tomorrow” if need be. He is also a big supporter and advocate for the arts in schools.
Carranza and Diggs spoke at the conference between performances by the Summer Arts Institute brass ensemble and a choir that sang “Take Me Home” by Pentatonix. During the brass ensemble’s performance, a photographer accidentally knocked down a young trumpet player’s sheet book. The chancellor and actor separately praised the musician during the conference for her ability to remain poised in the mishap and not miss a beat.
“When people talk about why it is important to have the music and the arts and dancing, it creates in our students the resilience and the ability to perform,” he said. “Those skills become a part of who they are in the future.”
Diggs shared a similar sentiment, saying, “I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for the arts and the educators.” The award-winning actor — best known for his performance in “Rent,” and films such as “The Best Man,” “Brown Sugar” and “Chicago” — said he grew up with low self-esteem, but his mother saw potential in him and enrolled him the School of the Arts in Rochester, N.Y. “I’ve been able to benefit from donations to help me soar and fly. This is very close to my heart.”
The actor is also an author of two children’s books, “Chocolate Me” (2011) and “Mixed Me” (2015), both made in collaboration with longtime friend and collaborator Shane Evans.
At the event, Carranza and Diggs held a small assembly for students during which they spoke briefly and heard stories from students about the importance of the arts. Students said they use the arts to express themselves and to make people happy, and a young singer said he uses singing as an outlet to overcome anxiety and insecurity.
Diggs said, “I’ve taught for an extended amount of time at Santa Clara University and when I’m working, I’ll sometimes fly in for a weekend for something as small as answering questions or master classes or going to the schools and sharing time with the young people and reading some of the books that I’ve written. It’s something that I’m really honored to do and something that I’ll always do.”
In addition, a new grant program, Adopt My School Sweepstakes, was also launched, where anyone age 13 and older can nominate a school for a chance to win one of 10 $10,000 Adoptaclassroom.org school supply grants.