This week we are proud to share insights from the President of the Parent Association at High Tech High Media Arts (HTHMA), Catherine White. HTHMA focuses on a college-going culture supported through a strong liberal arts and sciences foundation. The campus serves 400 students in grades 9-12 and was founded in 2005. The project-based curriculum enables students to “do and learn.” As the Parent Association President, White has seen the kind of difference HTHMA has made in its students’ lives. She has continuously and actively showed support for HTHMA and its programs. With her role as President of the Parent Association, comes not only knowledge but also her first-hand experience in dealing with funding challenges. We had an opportunity to speak with Catherine about her role at the parent association, the difficulties of fundraising and why she feels that DonorNation is the solution.
DonorNation: What does the quality of education mean to you?
Catherine: A school provides an education when its students are learning. A school provides a quality education when its students are learning how to learn. I think of the phrase, “That’s academic.” The word “academic” makes you think of a conventional, classical education. But saying, “That’s academic,” means something that is theoretical without a practical purpose. I think you cannot call an education a quality education without having a value, i.e., a practical purpose. When a student learns how to learn, and can put that knowledge to practical purpose…I call that a quality education.
DonorNation: What is your opinion on the funding crisis facing schools today? How has it impacted High Tech Media Arts?
Catherine: I think that the funding crisis does not stem from a lack of funds, but rather from a lack of priority. California spends approximately seven times more on housing a prisoner per year than educating a child per year. I am a criminal defense attorney. I know these prisoners; they are my clients. The overwhelming majority of prisoners have a single common trait — they grew up without a quality education. I see lives wasted every day because our state does not prioritize teaching our children how to think — and especially how to think before acting with full regard to the consequences. The students in our schools today can either be our future thinkers, or my future clients. In my opinion, we need to choose education now over punishment later for lack of making educated decisions.
High Tech High Media Arts is a project-based school with brilliant teachers who think beyond the books, outside the box, beneath the oceans and into the skies. When funding is limited, our teachers are limited. It’s that simple. Why would we allow that to happen? We move mountains to get our children into HTHMA, and then tell the teachers, “Sorry, but we don’t have the money to allow you to be brilliant with our children.” I don’t think so. Not only does that defeat the entire purpose of HTHMA, but demoralizes the teachers and students. I think that we must do everything in our power — and in our pocketbooks — to ensure that our teachers’ wishes and dreams for our students come true.
DonorNation: What are the biggest challenges you face with fundraising?
Catherine: Fighting the thought that “someone else” will do it. The parents that give their time, energy and money to fundraising efforts are a small percentage of the 100 percent participation that we need. If everyone gave — even in the smallest of ways — we would not have a fundraising problem. It takes a village, right?
DonorNation: Why did you decide to use DonorNation as a fundraising platform?
Catherine: The concept of DonorNation is brilliant. Neighbor-helping-neighbor? Come on! What better way to activate the resources of our community than to integrate our community’s individuals and businesses with the education of our community’s students? The quality of our city is the quality of our citizens. Our students are our future citizens, so why would we all not want to have a stake in that?
DonorNation: How do you feel DonorNation will help High Tech Media Arts?
Catherine: What is the downside? I mean, not only do we raise funds for the school, but we also teach the students that we are a community that puts its hope and faith in them. I don’t know a single child who doesn’t flourish when told that they matter and that they matter a great deal. That’s what DonorNation tells our children — your education matters so much that we are willing to make sure you get the best by making it part of our everyday lives. DonorNation allows us to make it our daily business to tell our students how much they matter to us. It’s not just a hope for them, it’s a reality for them.
DonorNation: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Catherine.
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