Justin Garritt, a math teacher at KIPP Ujima Village Academy located on Edgewood Street, had been filling out applications with DonorsChoose to get resources for his classroom.
DonorsChoose is nonprofit, crowdfunding platform that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects.
“For the past six years, I have filled out applications with DonorsChoose to help get supplies because of the school’s
limited budget,” said Garritt, who also coaches the school’s baseball team. DonorsChoose sent me a survey, which I completed.”
What Garritt didn’t know was that his completion of the survey would ultimately lead to a $200,000 donation by Mission Tiger— Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes’ new initiative to save middle school sports nationwide, and a surprise visit by “Tony the Tiger” and Pro Football Hall of Famer Ed Reed.
The donation will enable the school to add teams, improve facilities, offer more opportunities to play and even bring home its coed baseball squad after years of games played away from home. The donation and surprise visit came during a Pep Rally at the school on Friday, November 1, 2019,
“All of this from a survey,” said Garritt. “The school fit the narrative Mission Tiger was looking for. Prior to this donation, we always had to travel. Now, we can also play at home.”
KIPP has faced budget challenges that have prompted cuts to its sports programs. KIPP students were recently relocated to the school building, (formerly Walbrook High School), which does not meet middle school regulations, leaving teams sidelined and students benched.
The Mission Tiger donation will provide a new field, complete with dugouts, fencing and a new backstop so that KIPP's team can finally host home games this spring. Students cheered and shook pom-poms after hearing the announcement. Reed also took the opportunity to give them some winning advice.
“It’s not just about money because you can get money,” said the retired Baltimore Ravens star. “But if you don’t do the right things with it, it doesn’t matter, you understand? But make sure you surround yourself with all the right people. People who will support you; people who will encourage you to get good grades and to be successful in life. Don’t surround yourself with bad people and negative people.
“Do your best to try to help each other. We want to see everybody in here go off to college. That’s why we are doing this program with Mission Tiger. I love you guys, support you guys and am glad to be a part of this gift.”
The donation will also allow KIPP to bring back its flag football team. Moreover, it will revamp the gymnasium with much-needed updates, including safe basketball backboards, renovated bleachers and a new scoreboard. A new gym divider will allow multiple teams to practice at the same time and make it easier for more students to participate. The KIPP teams will also receive new jerseys so they can play with pride.
“Sports is a great teacher to youngsters about life,” said Reed who signed autographs and took photos with the students. “The reality is that in life, there are wins and losses. Sports teach life lessons and helps to break barriers. It also teaches young people about being accountable, about discipline, and working with others.
“I participated because I’m from a neighbor[hood] like this. I know what it feels like to not have access to certain things. Teaming up with Kelloggs and Mission Tiger is an awesome way to give back to our community. I’m all for that.”
Mission Tiger launched in August with a $1 million dollar commitment to DonorsChoose. Since 2000, more than four million people and partners have contributed $893 million to support 1.5 million teacher requests for classroom resources and experience through DonorsChoose.
Mission Tiger middle school sports projects such as the one at KIPP Ujima Village are fulfilled by DonorsChoose. Mission Tiger has helped more than 161,000 kids nationwide get better access to sports by funding middle school sports programs in need.
KIPP Baltimore currently serves more than 1,500 students and nearly 1,200 alumni through an elementary charter school, KIPP Harmony Academy, middle charter school, KIPP Ujima Village Academy, and an alumni support program called KIPP Through College (KTC).
“The announcement was very unexpected,” said eighth-grader, Rocksann Smith. “I play baseball, lacrosse, head the dance team and I am about to start track and cross country. I can’t wait. The upgrades to the gym and the new fields are going to be spectacular.”