Amy Armstrong has always believed in the power of philanthropy and education. In the fall of 2012, while she was working with Camelback High School and attending friends’ weddings, she suddenly saw an opportunity to bring the two together more efficiently than ever before.
Camelback’s principal at the time, Chad Gestson, was attempting to improve the culture of the school and the future outcomes of its students by implementing a radical new policy requiring every student to participate in an extracurricular activity.
Various studies have shown that students who participate in extracurricular activities have higher GPAs, better attendance records, lower risk of getting in trouble outside of school, and greater chances of earning a college degree.
CHS’s effort was a huge success. Student participation in activities skyrocketed, and new programs, like the Fashion Club, sprang up for those without activities that piqued their interest. These new clubs demanded resources, though, and this is where Armstrong came in.
Inspired by wedding registries, she sought to develop a website where clubs could ask for specific items and donors could pinpoint exactly what their funds would go toward purchasing.
Clubs, organizations and sports teams post specific items that they need to the website. Donors can then use price, school and activity-type filters to find those items that fit their philanthropic goals. Once the item is purchased it is drop-shipped directly to the school.
“Donors can shop for what speaks to them,” Armstrong said. “You know exactly where your dollars are going.”
Students write thank you notes and inform donors how their item has a been put to use. To keep the cycle going, clubs perform an hour of community service for each $100 donated.
The site, which is 100 percent free for all public and charter schools, started with schools local to Phoenix, but has since grown to include 150 schools statewide.
Support My Club is particularly helpful for those in less affluent areas. Over 80 percent of the clubs and teams registered on the site are from Title I schools, which are schools with low-income students that receive special state funding.
“It’s an opportunity to help students that might not have that level playing field by giving them educational opportunities.” Armstrong said. “We are, as a whole community, going to be in a better place if we’re using all of our young talent. Not just the ones with the resources.”
Not only does the site empower students of all means, it also takes the financial burden off of teachers. According to Armstrong, a survey the company conducted found that teachers commonly pay up to $1,200 a year to fund the extracurricular groups they manage.
The site has produced a plethora of success stories. Among them is Phoenix’s Metro Tech High School.
A few years ago, with only homemade gear made of scrap metal and 2x4s, teacher Mario Malaby started a weight-lifting club at the Title I school. Thanks to funding from the site, the club was eventually able to procure proper equipment, including squat racks and kettlebells. Last winter, the girls’ team won the Arizona High School Weightlifting Association State Championship.
In her thank you note to Support My Club, Metro Tech junior Susan Osuna wrote, “Participating in such a club has been an amazing experience, there’s never a day we don’t learn something beneficial, whether it is about weighting lifting or ourselves. The Weight Training club members have become like my family. I’m so thankful for this amazing club that has impacted my life.”
For more: supportmyclub.org.