Local schools win Big Lots grant money

For some reason I want to read a Skippyjon Jones book. Creative Commons License photo credit: amsd2dth

Congratulations to Elk Grove Unified’s Franklin Elementary School and Sheldon High School and Robla School District’s Taylor Street Elementary School, who were 3 of the 45 schools to win “Big Lots Lots2Give” prize money. From the contest website:

We asked participating schools to put their creativity to the test by submitting a short video and brief essay explaining why their school is in need of financial support. Then we turned to the public to select the winners by voting for their favorite video. Cash prizes include one $10,000 grand prize and forty-five $2,000 first prizes.

I know that cynicism gets old, but I am cynical about these big corporate “charity” social networking programs. In addition to Big Lots you’ve got the Pepsi Refresh Project and more locally the Raley’s Reach grants. My skepticism only goes so far, because at the end of the day these are actual charity programs and various groups are actually benefiting from them. Charities that fund public school projects in particular are doing great work, as governments consistently fail these schools. But these programs all leave a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to methodology.

The corporations all have the money (along with their partners in some cases) and presumably want to give it away. In the pre-Facebook days, they would simply set up a charitable arm and hire program managers to identify needy organizations and give out the money. But these days, it seems like they just hire some marketing goons to create a big social marketing push around it, and turn the real work of deciding where the money goes into a popularity contest. The Pepsi project is beyond annoying, going for laughs in radio spots by having actors promote obviously stupid/silly ideas for “changing their community.” (I don’t have any audio clips to back this up.)

The vibe I get is that the most important thing in the equation is your vote, as if they couldn’t possibly just give away the money without first allowing every contestant to spam their Facebook friends for votes.

(If you don’t mind an deeper layer of cynicism, allow me to Inception this shit on you: is $2000 really enough to open an entire school library, as Franklin Elementary was asking help to do? If Big Lots really had $100,000 to give away, why not find the 2 best projects that required something more like $50k and fund just those 2 projects?)

Again, I really shouldn’t have an opinion about this. I’m sure these companies are doing good work, and I’m sure that the ideas being submitted are at least as good as they are required to be to enter the contest. I guess the “popularity contest” model brings out the crusty old man in me. This morning. Tomorrow, it’ll be something else.

It can’t just be me: the Pepsi Refresh Project model is annoying, right?

Author: CoolDMZ

"X-ray vision to see in between / Where's my kimono and my time machine?"

3 thoughts on “Local schools win Big Lots grant money”

  1. The “Big Lots Library” at my alma matter, “Pepsi High*” was heavy on modern lit. light. E.g.; 12 month old Grisham and Anne Rice novels were plentiful, while “Wealth of Nations” and “The Odyssey” were not. Even Atlas Shrugged and 1984 were edited for product placement: “Who is John Galt and what did he do with my Diet Pepsi?”

    * Cheer was:
    Pepsi High,
    Pepsi High,
    Just drink it up
    to get that Pepsi High!
    Don’t just get high,
    Geeeeeeeeet PEPSI HIGH!
    Goooooooooo TEAM!


  2. It really depends- I think that the more people who are aware of a charity/ school’s the better. I work at a non-profit that represents every single child in the dependency system in Sacramento County. Strangley enough, very few people I encounter have actually heard of us. If a charity (or school) can get any kind of mass recognition to help with outreach and show what their need is, that’s a good thing.

    We all know that 2k isn’t enough to build a good library- but now we all know the funding problem exists. Maybe the local community will help out even more.


  3. HoneySac is right: I was recently at a dinner where most of the attendees were either childless or retired with no kids in the local school district. Most of them didn’t know the name of the elementary school in their neighborhood; a goodly number didn’t even know which school district they lived in. When they were informed that the cute little primary school three blocks from where we were sitting was struggling to stay open, they were surprised, even a little shocked. So it’s worth getting a conversation going among affluent boomers and others who might not be aware that their local schools need help.

    However—and here I am being terribly cynical—I spent roughly $2000 a year on textbooks when I was in grad school; and while college textbooks are a lot pricier than say, the entire catalog of works by Dr. Seuss, I don’t think you’re going to fill much of a bookcase with just $2000 worth of books, much less get a librarian to work for $2000 a year. A better solution would be for multinational corporations, which continue to show profits even as the local economy heads downhill, to create an ongoing sponsorship of local schools for a year, much as neighborhood businesses used to sponsor the local Little League or Pee Wee football teams. Yeah, they might ask that the Chase Bank or Coca Cola logo be displayed on the backs of students throughout the school year, but is it any different than the current practice of giving exclusive vendor contracts to Pepsi or Aramark?


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