Brooke Chow, 17, of Raleigh, North Carolina, a senior at Enloe Magnet High School, co-founded a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $12,000 to buy classroom supplies for cash-strapped schools in North Carolina by holding bake sales. When she entered high school, Brooke immediately noticed the scarcity of many basic school supplies, and discovered that public school teachers often have to buy these items with their own money. “The strain on resources was an obstacle that made it just that much harder for teachers to focus on students,” she said. Brooke started bringing tissue boxes and unused notebooks from home, but “I knew a longer term solution would be needed.” So Brooke and a friend asked a bakery if they could resell its banana nut bread and other baked goods at an open-air market at the state fairgrounds.
Now known as the “Banana Nut Scholars,” Brooke and her partner prepare for their bake sales by securing space, ordering and packaging bread, printing labels, making posters and fliers, and designing ads. They also ring doorbells and send emails to solicit donations. With the money raised, they make a wide range of classroom supplies available to any North Carolina teacher through their website, including pencils and pens, paper products, staplers, notebooks, batteries, rulers and hand sanitizers. So far, 55 volunteers have helped distribute over 60,000 items to nearly 600 teachers. In addition, Brooke’s nonprofit has provided thousands of sanitary napkins, tampons and undergarments directly to students in need. Brooke also has contacted more than 300 national and state legislators to lobby for increased funding for public education, and is advocating for related provisions in the state’s upcoming budgets.