BrightTree Studios and Synergy Media Group spent the month of August collecting school supplies in preparation for an afternoon of volunteering with The Education Partnership (TEP) at their office near Station Square in Pittsburgh.

On Friday, August 31, we packed up our vehicles and transported boxes full of pens, pencils, notebooks, folders, crayons, markers, tissue boxes, reams of printer and construction paper, disinfecting wipes, backpacks, and more.

These donations go to the Teacher Resource Center – a kind of shopping center where enrolled teachers can pick up essential classroom supplies for free. According to TEP’s website, partner schools are determined by a blind selection process in which an unbiased committee considers each applicant school’s need for supplies, enthusiasm about the program, and the potential for impact within that school. For the 2018-2019 school year, TEP’s service area is expanding to include Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

After we received a tour of the facility – the office space, prep area, storage, and resource center – our team went to work packaging thousands of pencils to be distributed in the Teacher Resource Center.

That afternoon, we got the chance to sit down with TEP’s volunteer manager, Brad Eddy, who told us more about the program.

“We’re here to support teachers,” he asserts, emphasizing the unique difficulties teaching presents. Many families are not able to send their students to school with all the school supplies they need to succeed, so the financial responsibility of providing for these students usually falls on teachers, who too often reach into their own pockets to do so.

“Many teachers are good at teaching, they just lack the tools they need to do their jobs well,” Eddy said. Eddy has been with TEP for four and a half years. When he started, the nonprofit partnered with 15 schools. Today, TEP supports over 110 schools, about 4,000 teachers, and over 40,000 students in and around Pittsburgh.

Eddy attributes this growth to TEP’s expanding volunteer base. Last year alone, TEP had over 15,000 volunteer hours from almost 3,000 volunteers. As technology designers and consultants, we know just how important education is. We’re happy to have worked with The Education Partnership, and are excited to watch the program continue to grow.

If you’d like to volunteer with or donate to TEP, please visit their website.